12 Man-Made Vegetables and Fruits – Did You Know?

Some of our favorite fruits and vegetables are actually man-made and not natural. Even though they were man-made, they taste great and won’t be going away anytime soon. 

List out 5 of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Take a guess at which ones are and are not man-made. After going through this article, how many of these did you guess right?

Here’s the list of man-made vegetables and fruits that you might not have known were man-made. 

What is Man-made Food?

Man-made fruits and vegetables are those created by humans through cross-breeding and selective breeding to create new varieties with desirable traits such as flavor or appearance. 

In some cases, cross-pollination will also occur to create new hybrids. This is especially popular with open pollinated vegetables and fruits, whether pollination is done by hand or by insects, like bees.

These new hybrids will then go through more cross and selective breeding for their flavor and appearance traits. 

Man-made vs GMO Vegetables and Fruits

Man-made and GMO are often mistaken to mean the same thing, but they are actually different. It’s important to understand the difference. 

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. It refers to any plant whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

The most common way to do this is to insert genes from one species into another. These plants can produce different proteins than normal crops because of the inserted gene. They may also contain higher levels of pesticides and herbicides due to the added genes. 

But when it comes to man-made foods, no genes are manually altered like in GMO. Man-made goes through planting and growing, and cross-breeding is done through pollination. GMO involves procedures done in labs. 

Now that that’s out of the way, here are popular fruits and vegetables that you might not have known were actually man-made.

15 Man-made Fruits and Vegetables

1. Broccoli

Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family (cabbage), originating specifically the Brassica oleracea. Other family members include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, collard greens, and others. 

Yes, it does seem that they’re all vastly different vegetables, but they are actually all descendants of cabbage through selective breeding.

Different parts of the cabbage were selectively bred for appearance, color, and taste. Through multiple generations, we have the vegetables that we have today. 

In fact, the broccoli form we have today has been around since the Roman Empire, so it’s stood the test of time.

2. Cauliflower

Similar to broccoli, cauliflower was selectively bred from cabbage, the Brassica oleracea. 

Cauliflower and broccoli tops come from cabbage that were bred their tops. This means that the head itself wasn’t selected for size or shape. Instead, only the part above ground was used.

3. Corn

The corn we know today is a hybrid, but the actual ancestors and origins are unknown. 

Some experts believe that corn existed before the current crop of corn varieties were developed. And some believe that the existence of teosinte is evidence that the original corn had a similar appearance to modern day varieties of corn. Some even say that it’s more related to rice than maize.

4. Bananas

Bananas originate from a cross between the Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. By themselves, they weren’t that edible.

One was hard to eat because it had too many seeds, even though it was sweet. The other was seedless, fleshy, small, and its toughness made it hard to eat. 

That combination makes up what we call bananas today. They are fleshy, sweet, and mostly seedless. 

5. Carrots

Carrots were originally found in the Middle East (Afghanistan and Iran) and Central Asia.

The bright orange carrots we see today are actually quite different from their ancestors. The original carrots were thin and either purple or white. 

Carrots get their orange color from beta carotene which gives them their vitamin A content. Beta carotene isn’t present in any other vegetable except pumpkins.

Many colors were actually bred by the early farmers, whether intentionally or unintentionally. 

6. Watermelons

Watermelons originated in African deserts. It took about 200 years for watermelon cultivation to spread across Europe and North America. Interesting enough, watermelons were found in paintings buried in 4,000+ year old Egyptian tombs. 

Today, there are over 1,200 types of watermelon with varying shapes, sizes, flavors, and textures. But most people think of just one type – the red flesh ones. 

The watermelon’s ancestors had non-red flesh, a paler color and many more seeds. 

7. Apples

Apples aren’t all that different from their ancestors in terms of how they look. All apples originate from one main apple variety, the Malus sieversii.

This cultivar grew wild in Xinjiang, China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, and Uzbekistan. Through the years, apples have developed different tastes and appearances based on where it is grown. 

There are over 7500 apple varieties out there today. If you’re an apple lover, traveling to different areas of the world will give you different tasting apples. 

8. Peanuts

The peanuts we know today are a cross-breed of the Arachis ipaensis from Bolivia and the Arachis duranensis from the Andean Valleys. How did they cross pollinate being so far away from each other?

10,000 years ago, the people who settled in South America and Bolivia brought over the the Arachis duranensis from the Andean Valleys. It was there that cross pollination occurred between the two to spawn today’s peanut.

9. Eggplants

The original eggplants were similar to eggs in its round shape and white color, which is where they get their eggplant name. 

The deep shade of purple that eggplants have now were bred through years. The early colors were yellow and multiple shades of purple. 

Eggplants also come in various forms like long skinny, short fat, and globe shaped. 

10. Oranges

Crossing a mandarin with pomelo resulted in the orange we have today. Oranges were first grown in Southern China and later brought around the world by traders. 

11. Tomatoes

The tomato can be tracked back to Mexico and 700 A.D. with the early Aztecs. The tomato’s ancestors are the Lycopersicon esculentum.

They then traveled north into what is known as New Spain. From here, tomatoes made their way westward until reaching Italy. Now you can see why the cuisines from those areas utilize tomatoes as a popular base. 

12. Strawberries

Antoine Nicolas Duchesne bred the modern strawberry back in 1764 in France. He cross-bred the male Fragaria moschata and the female Fragaria chiloensis that resulted in the strawberry.  

France has a long history with the strawberry and many of the largest strawberries are from France, especially wild strawberries. They are often larger and more flavorful. 

Man-made Vegetables and Fruits Final Thoughts

The origins and history of these man-made vegetables and fruits are pretty interesting. I hope this list helps you learn something new about your favorite foods.