Graze Anatomy: Weird Parts Of The Foods We Love

Phloem bundles

You know what’s wonderful about a banana? It’s one of the least messy fruits around. Peel, nosh, discard. Oh wait, we forgot there’s one really annoying thing about bananas. Those pesky stringy things that sometimes make the eater question the reason why they're eating the d@mn banana to begin with. Why, Mother Nature, why?

We aren’t privy to Mother Nature’s botanical secrets, but we can at least tell you what those troublesome stringy-majigs are called: phloem bundles and they sound, look, and taste about as good as a bundle of phlegm. However, these shoestrings circulate nutrients throughout the banana and make what’s encased (the delicious fruit itself) so good for us. Okay, we’ll begrudgingly concede to the fact that the strings aren’t Nature’s floss of doom.

Did you just have a crazy a-ha moment? Well, then you’ll eat up our class on Graze Anatomy . . . next up, apples. And, don't forget to test your knowledge with our quiz at the end!

The next time you eat an apple, turn it over and appreciate how cute its dimple is. This depression at the bottom of the apple, with a little star-shaped bud in the center, is called the calyx. Related to the Greek kylix (“drinking cup, cup of a flower”), the calyx is like a cup around the star of the apple’s bottom.

The calyx reminds the apple-eater that the fruit was once a beautiful, aromatic flower. And, that bursting star shape in the center of the dimple is made up of sepals, or leaf-like projections that once protected the apple blossoms that bees pollinated. 

The central column is another fruity feature that is nothing but stupid and annoying. It sounds like a Grecian temple necessity, but this is actually the white column of despair that travels down the center of an orange and has the texture of dehydrated ear cartilage. Yum. 

Sticking with citrus for a minute, the central column separates the carpels. These are the scrumptious, juicy pieces of the orange that people are desperate to eat without the intrusion of chewy shoe leather.

Oranges must have a thing for leather, though, because the albedo is that thick, bitter, leathery layer of peel that must be removed before eating the carpels—and some of the albedo stubbornly refuses to be cut out of the orange-wedge’s life. The albedo doesn’t include the good zesty bit at the outermost layer of the orange. That’s called the flavedo because it’s so full of flavor-o.

Achenes are the tiny seeds of a strawberry. Technically, the achenes are ovaries, not seeds. The ovaries are separate fruits (within the bigger fruit) that contain the seeds. That's a pretty microscopic definition.

Not fish gills, although resembling the squishy fishy stuff, gills are found on the underside of a mushroom cap. Mushroom gills come in different shapes and sizes, all designated by academic names like emarginate and adnexed.

These soft ribs, also called lamella, are crucial organs for mushrooms because it’s through them that spores can be spewed into the air—sometimes at an acceleration of 10,000 g-force! (For reference: A driver going 230 mph is only going 4.74 g, so these spores are flying at super-supernatural speeds.)

In botany, the peduncle is the stem of a fruit or vegetable. Peduncles can be short and slender, like an apple stem, or thick and knobby, like the shank of a corn cob. When stringing green beans, the top portion of the bean that gets discarded is a tinier type of peduncle called a pedicel.

Sometimes, in order for a salad to retain its leafy green integrity, a particular technique (deseeding) is administered to a zealous, juice-oozing ingredient: the tomato.

The pulpy bits of this fruit (or veggie, depending on your side of the tomato debate) are perfect for sauces and jam, but at times the locular cavities—those almost slimy parts inside the tomato, where the seeds live—are simply too slobbery for the delicate dish at hand.

We’ve already talked about the pedicel of a green bean, but that’s only one end of the beanpole. At the other end is the remains of style, a rather posh name for the tiny bit that peeks out at the base of the green bean.

In botany, style has nothing to do with how great the veggie looked at the Oscars. The word style comes from Greek stülos (“pillar”). So, the style of a green bean is a pillar-like growth at the center. By the time the green bean is fully developed and ready to be stringed and eaten, the only thing that remains of the style is that tiny blip at the bottom.

Drupes are fleshy fruits that surround a pit, like peaches, plums, and cherries. Miniaturize and break the drupes down into tinier drupes, called drupelets, bunch all those drupelets together, and you’ve got fruits like raspberries and blackberries. Who knew?

Think you know your weird food parts?

Test out your Graze Anatomy knowledge in this quiz!

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