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Facts about vegetables covering spinach facts, facts about celery, and much more.

The List Show is a weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John shares some little known facts about vegetables!

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Hi, I'm John Green, welcome to my salon. This is mental_floss Video, and did you know the official state vegetable of Oklahoma is the watermelon? As you can imagine, this is a subject of some debate in Oklahoma, as the watermelon is a fruit, and many politicians have tried to change it. But as of now, it remains the state's official vegetable. Anyway, that's the first of many facts about vegetables, or fruits that politicians believe to be vegetables, that I'm gonna share with you today.

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So we started our episode of fruit by talking about what a fruit actually is, so let's get into the requirements for being a vegetable, which is not really a botanical term like fruit is, it's actually more cultural. We kind of collectively decide what vegetables are by excluding other types of things that grow in the ground, like fruit and grains and nuts and watermelons.

The word "vegetable" actually comes from a Latin word meaning "growing" or "flourishing", and you probably know that vegetables contain nutrients to help us to grow and flourish.

But there's an ongoing debate on how to store and cook the vegetables so as to not lose those nutrients. For instance, things like vitamin C and folic acid are especially vulnerable when it comes to being canned or frozen or boiled. But then again, some studies have shown that frozen vegetables might actually maintain more nutrients than vegetables that are stored fresh.

I always say just buy whatever's cheapest, but some vegetables are definitely better frozen, like it's actually recommended that you freeze okra in order to preserve its nutrients.

According to a study published in a 2013 issue of Current Biologyone of my favorite magazines, vegetables have internal clocks which keep them healthy and repel insects. The researchers were actually able to manipulate those internal clocks by exposing the vegetables to light and dark, proving once again that we are smarter than potatoes.

The company Grimmway Farms has 5 different sizes of baby carrots. They call the smallest ones "carroteenies", because they're teeny. It's funny, it's a pun.

Tapioca comes from a vegetable known as the cassava, but cassavas also contain cyanide, so they need to be prepared pretty carefully.

Another dangerous vegetable, rhubarb. The leaves have a few dangerous elements including oxalic acid. Eating too much of it can be poisonous, but the again eating too much rhubarb is never a good idea. I'm not a doctor, but I would say your limit on rhubarb should be about like, 1 rhubarb per calender year.

By the way, we generally consider rhubarb to be a vegetable because it tastes disgusting, but in 1947, a New York court officially named it to be a fruit, making the tariffs smaller.

During the 19th century, a lot of celery was grown in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to the extent the city started calling itself "Celery City". Kalamazoo celery was actually white or yellow and considered sweeter than the green California celery that we mostly eat today.

Similarly, Crystal City, Texas is known as the "World Spinach Capital" for how much spinach they were able to produce and sell during the Great Depression. They credit Popeye for its popularity since he was a famous spinach-eating cartoon character at the time. The city put up a huge statue of Popeye in 1937.

In 1984, a woman named Janet Harris broke a world record by using chopsticks to eat 7,175 peas in 1 hour. That's cool. Based on my experience trying to pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks, I suspect I could do like, 4. 

Speaking of vegetable world records, in 1981 a group of 5 chefs managed to peel over 587 pounds of potatoes in 45 minutes.

And speaking of potatoes, in the 18th century, salty potatoes were a popular dessert.

Thomas Jefferson imported squash and broccoli from Italy to grow in his garden.

And another political figure who likes to grow vegetables is Michelle Obama. When the government shut down in 2013, the White House gardeners couldn't go to work and help take care of her vegetable garden. When they returned, they had to get rid of weeds and lots of rotten food.

And speaking of vegetables and politics, there was a huge controversy in 2011 when Congress declared that pizza and french fries could be considered vegetables when it comes to school lunch standards. The controversy, of course, was among nutritionists. Students everywhere were like "Cool."

It's been discovered that chickens are effective weed foragers who can assist asparagus farmers. Like according to one study they were able to decrease weeds by 90%. And they don't eat the asparagus because asparagus is gross.

The Romans were some of the first cabbage eaters, by the way, and they brought cultivated versions to Britain.

The Romans were also asparagus eaters, in fact Emperor Augustus came up with an expression that translates to "Faster than cooking asparagus!" Which was his way of saying, "Get moving!"

Scallions have many names in many different languages, which can be translated to phrases like "fresh onions", "green onions", "Chinese onions", "bundled onions", and "onion leaves".  

And red bell peppers are actually just ripened green peppers, although some varieties of green peppers stay green and don't mature to red. But yeah, that's why they're more expensive, and also more tender. It's because they're ripe.

Bagged lettuce that you get in the grocery store is made up of the small, misshapen heads of lettuce that would otherwise be thrown away. And we now pay about twice as much for it as we would for a head of lettuce.

String beans got their name because there used to literally be a tough string inside the bean, although nowadays they're usually bred to be stringless.

Romanesco broccoli is a lesser known vegetable, and it's unique because it's an approximate fractal occurring naturally. Basically it's a repeating pattern that goes on until its termination point.

Another lesser known vegetable, the yardlong bean; which got it's name for being about half a yard long. Which reminds me of the footlong Subway sandwich, never more than 10 inches long.

And then there's the shishito pepper, which is a commonly eaten vegetable in Asian cultures. About 1 in 10 of the peppers are very spicy, and you don't know which one it is until it's too late. 

So here's a trick to get your kids to eat their vegetables. A 2010 study offered children broccoli or a chocolate bar. Normally, 4 out of 5 chose to eat the chocolate, but when researchers put an Elmo sticker of the broccoli, 50% chose it instead of the chocolate.

In the US, something known as the Artichoke Wars occurred in the 1920's. A mafia leader in New York started buying up every crate of baby artichokes that arrived from California, then sold them so that he'd profit 30-40%. He made so much money off the monopoly that he became known as the Artichoke King. The mayor of New York eventually banned the vegetable, but the ban only lasted a week because people. love. artichokes. Specifically people in the 1920's, today not so much.

Beet juice combined with salt brine make a solution that effectively prevents roads from icing over, and it's better for the enviroment than the standard road salt.

You never want to make too much of a single medical study, but one 2004 study showed that a diet containing mushrooms and green tea helped reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Ours probably won't be of much use as he is plastic, plus he's protected by that spider.

Okay, let's speed up. Corn grows on every continent in the world besides Antarctica.

Radishes grow super fast; the name of their genus is "raphanus" which means "quickly appearing" in Greek.

According to a 1993 study, if you eat 20 pounds of eggplant you've consumed the amount of nicotine found in 1 cigarette.

In 2012, Pizza Hut was the #1 purchaser of kale in the United States; it's used to decorate the salad bar.

In 2013 a group of scientists and students in London used a thousand Brussels sprouts to power a Christmas tree lighting.  

And it's believed that zucchini was bred in Italy from squash that came from colonial America.  

For pictures, Chinese people often say the word for "eggplant" when we would say "cheese".

In 1955, Salvador Dali was invited to a lecture in France. He arrived in a Rolls-Royce filled to the brim with cauliflower.

And finally, I return to my salon to tell you about another historical figure who liked vegetables, Charles Darwin. He was fascinated by how vegetables traveled, meaning how they ended up on multiple continents. I mean at one point he even fed a bird vegetable seeds, killed the bird, floated it in saltwater for a month, removed the seeds, and planted them. And they did end up growing plants. 

Thanks for watching this episode of mental_floss Video which was made with the help of all of these lovely people. Let me know your favorite vegetable in the comments, mine is the watermelon. And as we say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.

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