It’s a hot summer day, and you’re out picking berries, shoveling handfuls full of ripe in-season wonders into your basket. You decide to be bad, to pop one of those succulent fruits in your mouth without washing. Before you sink your teeth into the familiar red skin of the strawberry, you notice it isn’t red at all, but green, and entirely covered in unsightly growths: that strawberry cannot be normal!
When it comes to fruits, we have a general idea of how they’re supposed to look. So when you’re expecting a red round tomato and it actually turns out looking closer to a lab experiment, it throws us for a loop. Luckily, there’s an explanation for these mutated fruits and veggies — an all natural one that may leave you too freaked to clean your plate.
Don’t scream. It’s gonna be okay. What you’re looking at is a strawberry, not an alien life form. There’s a scientific explanation for this freaky phenomena.
It happens when, from inside the fruit, an embryo busts out of one of the interior seeds, eventually growing straight out of the fruit itself, resulting in spiky, Chia Pet looking things we are all afraid to put into our mouths.
This wacky process is called vivipary. You’re most likely to see these impatient seedlings bursting out of tomatoes, strawberries, citrus fruits, and peppers. Though tons of plants experience this process where buds use their “mother plant” as a launchpad for life.
It’s a process mimicked in the salty shallows of areas crawling with mangroves. The embryos inside the seeds normally wait patiently for their mama plant to run through her life span, then, once the fruit splits open, those embryos find a home in the damp soil.
In the case of the mangroves, seedlings crawling out of their mother plants is totally necessary, since they exist in water and can’t wait to fulfill their own germination process. Now, the fruits sitting on your counter sprouting feelers are another story.
That papaya you bought at the farmer’s market looked totally normal, but when you cracked that sucker open, you saw the evidence of fidgety embryos! Who thought the warm moist interior of the fruit was actually a signal from mother nature.
More than likely, though, that mango you intended to slice up for your fruit salad just turned your stomach. The scientific explanation holds little comfort when you paid a cool $3 for an organic mango that resembles a prop straight out of unsettling cinema.
Before you scoop out these buggers and hook ’em on your fishing pole, you’d do better to plant them in a pot of soil. These agile sprouts are already in the process of becoming tomato plants. They just look super ugly.