Everything changes at some point, and fruit is no exception to this rule. Here are 10 different fruits that have either changed in reputation or in their entirety.
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Many have wondered why banana-flavored candies don’t taste like a regular standard banana at all: instead, they’re much tastier and sweeter. The difference in taste is due to the fact that at the beginning of the 20th century, bananas were slightly different from what we have today. The modern common banana found in most stores today is a breed called Cavendish, which gained prominence after Panama disease emerged, the fungus of which wiped out the then popular Gros Michel banana. Many types of bananas have become extinct this way since the 19th century, with certain mushrooms making the life of banana growers difficult, but no recent incident has had such an impact as the wiping out of the Gros Michel. Although the taste of common bananas has been different for over half a century, the candies still taste exactly the same because of their popularity. The change in taste, however, is nothing compared to how bananas once looked, as they once contained large, hard seeds that would make eating them far more difficult than it is today.
The apricot was once a staple food for the troops in World War II. She was known for her ability to keep the body full for longer. After a series of engine failures and technical problems with the tanks that transported the fruit, the apricot gained an unfavorable reputation. Soon the fruit was no longer allowed in military vehicles, just because of the superstition of the Marines who had witnessed such problems. The truth is: all rations have been divided equally between each shipment, which means that if one tank breaks down, apricots are sure to be in the supplies. A staff sergeant who was questioned about this superstition confirmed that he was still alive and well years after World War II. “I’ve heard from the Corps that you should never take apricots in the vehicle,” he said before joking. “I don’t know where the hell you would get apricots from in the middle of Afghanistan …”
The durian fruit usually plays a role in many Southeast Asian dishes, as well as in medicines and sweets. However, it is best known for its terrible smell. In 2020 a post office in Schweinfurt was evacuated and the ambulance service called because a durian fruit sent by post had panicked employees and customers. The fruit resulted in six of the workers being hospitalized on suspicion that the pungent odor was some kind of dangerous gas. The unbearable quality of the fruit has resulted in the rules in Rapid Mass Transit being changed in Singapore and invariably banned underground. Durians now appear on signs prohibiting smoking, eating, and flammable goods. Scientists tasked with researching the fruit and its special nature have found that it is the combination of many different chemicals that create the scent, four of which were previously unknown to science.
Through selective breeding, the peach has become many times larger than it originally was over the centuries. Generations of farmers who were once smaller than the stone in the middle of an ordinary peach have manipulated the fruit and emphasized its more beneficial properties. It is said that the original peach, believed to be no bigger than a cherry, was far more a lentil flavor than sweet.
Perhaps the most obvious on this list, the tomato has changed the most drastically in terms of reputation. For the longest time it was commonly known as a vegetable before the fact that it was actually a fruit gained importance. Nowadays, the saying “wisdom means knowing that a tomato is a fruit, while knowing that you don’t put it in a fruit salad” is used rather mockingly. In the 18th century, however, the tomato was a dreaded fruit known as the “poison apple,” in part because of its similar appearance to the common household apple, both in size and color, and because of the effects it had on aristocrats. Ultimately, it turned out that the reason it affected the topsheet so badly was because the acid in the tomato brought out the lead in fancy cutlery, and the user got sick after consuming the fruit.
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The watermelon was not always smooth and red after opening. How is that known? Well, the artist Giovanni Stanchi painted a variety of fruits, including that of a freshly cut watermelon. One only has to take one look at the painting to see that the watermelon depicted looks very different from the more modern versions of the fruit. This is because it has been domesticated and selectively bred since the 17th century to produce as much food as possible. Another important change is the change in color from a dark shade to a lighter, richer red. Through Stanchi’s painting, the fruit has been perfectly preserved for hundreds of years: if only in the picture.
While many of the fruits on this list are vastly different from the shape they once took, the common apple shares many characteristics with its predecessor. It tastes so different because the fruits we regularly buy in our supermarkets are much sweeter than they were before the apple was domesticated. While few facts are known about the beginning of this fruit’s specific timeline, one detail that has been preserved is the fact that it once tasted much more sour than it does today. A very important factor that it shares with its predecessor is the lethality of its pips. Apple seeds contain a chemical that converts to cyanide in the human body and should therefore be avoided in large quantities.
The eggplants have a rich and varied history in which they have taken the form of many different colors and sizes. While the modern eggplant is commonly known as purple, previous incarnations of the fruit were green, yellow, and white. A key difference between the modern and former eggplant is the fact that it used to contain a fairly prominent spine that ran from the bottom of the fruit to the root. This aspect was abandoned for similar reasons why the watermelon became fuller and larger: so that more food can be taken from each harvest. They used to be much rounder, similar to the shape of a tomato, rather than the large, long fruits they are today.
The majority of berries grown in the United States have small, transparent worms. These bugs appeared in these fruits in 2008 and are known to scientists as “Drosophila suzukii”, an edible worm that does no harm at all. Over time, these worms will grow into a specific type of fruit flies if not eaten. Again, these animals are harmless! The worms are small and white, are often described as being essentially transparent, and don’t turn into fruit flies until the fruit has rotted, allowing the worms inside to fall into the ground. They may be a problem for farmers, but worms are not a problem for everyday fruit pickers. They can be consumed like any other fruit without any problems.
Many associate the kiwi with New Zealand, but in reality the fruit originates from China. It was simply a marketing ploy that transferred the credit to the South Pacific nation, which went so far as to change the name of the fruit in question. Originally the kiwi was known as “Chinese gooseberry”, which in its original Chinese meant “macaque fruit”. Macaques are a type of monkey specifically found across Asia and it was their love for the kiwi that led to their being named after them. New Zealand’s introduction of the kiwi has been called “botanical abduction” as seeds were brought into the country from China, first by Mary Isabel Fraser in 1904, who gave them to a New Zealand farmer who planted them and tended them to the tree. It was not until 1910 that the first kiwis grew in the country, and it was not until fifty years later that in 1959 they were renamed “Kiwis”. With this renaming, the fruits were to be freed from the much less desired “gooseberries” ‘title. Needless to say, kiwifruit became popular and is still a staple for fruit bowls to this day. Fun fact: New Zealanders refer to themselves (and their national bird) as “kiwis” and the fruits exclusively as “kiwis”.
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About the author: Pop culture fan and writer from Liverpool, UK.