Agriculture is a fairly recent invention, only about 10,000 years old. Since agriculture began, generation after generation of farmers have artificially bred crops to select for more desirable traits, like size and taste. Needless to say, your favorite fruits and vegetables have changed drastically over the centuries.

I set out to find the least natural fruit in existence, and decided it was probably the modern watermelon,” writes James Kennedy, a chemistry teacher in Australia who has created eye-opening infographics to show the evolution of certain crops.

Kennedy explains that, while ancient “wild watermelons” weighed no more than 80 grams (0.18 lbs), modern watermelons can range from 2 kg to 8 kg (4.4 lbs to  17.6 lbs) in the supermarket. And the Guinness World Record for the heaviest watermelon recorded exceeded 121 kilograms (266.7 lbs) in the year 2000. “Thousands of years of human-induced evolution have worked miracles on these fruits. Let’s not forget that they’re completely artificial,” writes Kennedy.


The below infographic explores the differences between the natural, “wild peach” and its modern, artificial relative. Kennedy explains,

“It explores how the ancient Chinese developed a small, wild fruit (that tasted like a lentil) into the juicy, delicious peaches that we eat today…After the wild peach was domesticated in 4000 B.C., farmers selected seeds from the tastiest fruits for re-planting. They tended to the trees for thousands of years, and the fruits became bigger and juicier with each generation. After 6000 years of artificial selection, the resulting Peach was 16 times larger, 27% juicier and 4% sweeter than its wild cousin, and had massive increases in nutrients essential for human survival as well.”

After 6000 years of artificial selection, the resulting peach was 16 times larger than the “wild peach” of 3000 B.C.

The modern-day 2014 peach is 64 times larger than its wild ancestor. Insane.


Then there’s corn, the infamous crop which has been radically altered through selective breeding. Kennedy writes,

“The most famous example of artificial selection is of course the selective breeding of the feeble teosinte plant into juicy, delicious, North American sweetcorn. In 9000 years, sweetcorn has become 1000 times larger, 3.5 times sweeter, much easier to peel and much easier to grow than its wild ancestor. It no longer resembles the original teosinte plant at all. Around half of this artificial selection happened since the fifteenth century, when European settlers placed new selection pressures on the crop to suit their exotic taste buds.”

The chemistry teacher promises that more fascinating natural vs. artificial crop infographics are coming soon.

[via James Kennedy, Vox]

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