Facts About Food We Just Learned In 2021

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Vote up the food facts you can't believe are actually true.

It can be easy to assume we know everything we need to about food because we eat it all the time, but familiarity does not always equate to knowledge. Many surprising food facts remain unexplored - particularly for some of our favorite discontinued snacks. For example, tempura is not originally from Japan. There's a perfectly good answer for why banana candy doesn't actually taste like bananas. And the reason Squeezit sales suffered was actually pretty ironic. 

Read through these wild facts about our favorite foods and drinks, and vote up the ones you think are the coolest. 


  • Banana Trees Are Actually Herbs
    Photo: Rosendahl / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Just when you felt you had a handle on whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, you learn that a banana "tree" isn't a tree at all. All trees, biologically, have a hard outer stem commonly called a trunk. The banana plant doesn't. In botanical terms, that makes it the world's largest-growing herb, with each stalk only producing fruit once.

    If that wasn’t enough obscure banana science for you - bunches also defy gravity. The fruit on the bunch (also called a "hand") grows upward instead of toward the ground, as is typical of most plants and fruit. This is due to negative geotropism. Essentially, a hormone in the fruit forces it to grow upward toward the sun, because the tiny pigments of chlorophyll need it to make glucose to develop the plant’s sweet fruit.

  • Banana Candy Tastes Like A Banana That's No Longer Commercially Sold
    Photo: UncleBaldy / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    Banana Candy Tastes Like A Banana That's No Longer Commercially Sold

    We all know there's quite a difference between banana-flavored candy and the bananas you might have for breakfast. Banana-flavored treats tend to be a little sweeter, less complex in flavor, and less authentic than the yellow friend you peel. However, that could be because banana flavoring actually closely mimics an almost-extinct banana cultivar called the Gros Michel, which at one time was one of the most common bananas sold commercially.

    Threatened by a fungus dubbed "Panama disease," Gros Michel became difficult to buy or grow. Consumers were introduced instead to the Cavendish variety - what we're most familiar with today. So instead of assuming that banana flavoring is entirely inauthentic and artificial, find yourself a Gros Michel banana, and you might just change your mind.

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    'Red' Spaghetti Sauce First Appeared In A French Cookbook In 1797

    Pasta dishes have long been associated with Italy and, in truth, many of the sauces found atop a pile of noodles trace back to ancient Rome. The Roman culinary book known as Apicius includes numerous creamy, white, and wine sauces.

    However, the tomato wasn't even introduced to Italy from South America until the 16th century, and the first cooked tomato recipe didn't appear in an Italian cookbook until the early 19th century. 

    It's been a relatively recent development that diners can enjoy the traditional red sauce that dominates restaurants and grocery store shelves today. The first red-sauced pasta recipe was in a French cookbook from 1797, establishing a foundation for derivatives like Bolognese, marinara, and others. 

  • Battered and fried seafood or vegetables is considered a Japanese food, but tempura was actually introduced to Japan by Portuguese Jesuits - traveling on a Chinese ship - during the mid-16th century. 

    Once the Portuguese had their footing in Japan, they remained for nearly a century, exchanging goods, ideas, and recipes. The traditional Portuguese dish peixinhos da horta left an indelible mark on Japan.

    Translated to "little fish of the garden," peixinhos da horta involved battering and frying green beans. The Japanese renamed it tempura, derived for the Latin word "tempora," indicative of Lenten prohibitions on meat

  • Yes, a banana is a berry - but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are not. The reasoning lies in the scientific definition of a berry. If the fruit in question has an outer skin (exocarp), a fleshy middle (mesocarp), and an inner part with two or more seeds (endocarp), then it is a berry.

    Also to be considered a berry, a fruit must develop from one flower with a single ovary, and strawberries have flowers with more than one ovary. So strawberries are not true berries, but rather aggregate accessory fruits. However, bananas are berries, along with numerous other fruits, including watermelons, blueberries, kiwis, tomatoes, and eggplants (yes, the latter two are technically fruits).

  • Baker Cheese is a Wisconsin-based, family-owned company that has been making cheese for more than 100 years. In the 1960s, with pizza rising in popularity, the company transitioned from specializing in cheddar cheese to mozzarella. This, in turn, led customers to ask Baker for smaller units of snackable mozzarella cheese. 

    Frank Baker may have been the first person to create string cheese in the Midwest, cutting mozzarella into ropes and then soaking them in salt brine to make them "string." According to The Atlantic, he then took it to the local bar:

    “The marketing plan was very elaborate,” [Frank's grandson] Brian laughs. “It was going to parties and taverns and asking people, ‘What do you think?’”

    What they thought was this: It was easy to snack on. It had a mild, pleasant flavor profile. It wasn’t offensive. It was stringy. And it was popular among the bar goers.

    “[String cheese] certainly wasn’t targeted specifically to kids,” Brian said. “It was meant to be a functional, high quality piece of cheese you could peel and stretch.”