Here's what fruits and vegetables looked like before we domesticated them

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Next time you pop an ear of juicy sweet corn on the grill, remember this: Your summertime favorite wasn't always so tasty.

In fact, its predecessor, a wild grass called teosinte, barely resembles the sweet, crunchy vegetable we're now familiar with. And this was the case for many of our fruits and veggies.

So how did we get the produce we have today?

Turns out we've been tweaking their genetics for hundreds of years via selective breeding, whereby farmers select and grow crops with the traits they desire, like juicer fruit, over time.

GMOs involve a similar process, though it's more exact and rapid. Instead of hand-picking these genes over hundreds of years, scientists splice in genes from another organism. And despite all the vitriol they've inspired, the science on GMOs has never been clearer. A new report released Wednesday looking at three decades of research on GE crops found "n o evidence" that they "are less safe to eat than conventional food."

Here are some of the foods that looked totally different before we first started growing them to eat:

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Wild corn

Wild corn

Roughly 10,000 years ago, farmers in what is now Mexico noticed that not all of their maize plants were the same. Some were bigger; some tasted better. So they started saving kernels from the plants they favored and planted them for the next season. Thanks to what we now call selective breeding, cobs of maize grew bigger and sweeter over time.

Natural corn, shown above, was first domesticated in 7,000 BC and was dry like a raw potato, according to an infographic by chemistry teacher James Kennedy.

Modern corn

Modern corn

Today, corn is 1,000 times larger than it was 9,000 years ago and much easier to peel and grow. Also, a whopping 6.6% of the vegetable is made up of sugar, compared with just 1.9% in natural corn, according to Kennedy. About half of these changes occurred since the 15th century, when European settlers began cultivating the crop.

Wild eggplant

Wild eggplant

Eggplants also weren't always the large, deep purple veggie we know them to be today. Once upon a time, they were white. Some were bright blue. Still others (like those in the photo) were yellow and round. Some of the earliest eggplants were cultivated in China. And early versions of the veggie once had spines where the plant's stem now connects to its flowers.

Modern eggplant

Modern eggplant

Thanks to selective breeding, eggplants no longer have spines and instead are a long, oblong shape with a characteristically deep purple hue.

Wild banana

Wild banana

Before modern-day bananas existed, people may have bred Musa acuminata, a plant with puny pods that could be bred to produce a seedless fruit. These spindly plants date back to at least 6,500 years ago in what is now Papua New Guinea, according to Smithsonian. Archaeological records suggest that acuminata was then bred with another related plant, the Musa balbisiana, which resulted in tasty plantains. Present-day bananas are thought to be the progeny of these plantains.

Modern banana

Modern banana

Mmm. By breeding combinations of the two wild varieties together, farmers eventually created our modern-day favorite: The sweet complement to any peanut butter sandwich. The bananas we take for granted today also owe their handy shape and convenient outer peel to hybridization. Plus, compared with its ancestors, the fruit of today has smaller seeds, a superior taste, and also comes packed with far more nutrients.

Wild watermelon

Wild watermelon

This 17th-century painting by Giovanni Stanchi depicts a watermelon that looks strikingly different from modern melons, as Vox points out. Looking closer at the fruit in the painting, which was made sometime between 1645 and 1672, you can make out a few swirly shapes embedded in what looks like some very dry, white fruit. Look at all those gnarly black seeds!

Modern watermelon

Modern watermelon

Over time, our ancestors bred watermelons to have the red, pulpy interior we know today. Some people think the watermelon in Stanchi's painting may just be unripe or unwatered, but the black seeds in the painting suggest that it was, in fact, ripe.

Wild carrot

Wild carrot

The earliest known carrots were thought to have been grown sometime during the 10th century in what is now Eastern Turkey. These were thought to originally be purple or white with a thin, forked root. Throughout their history, breeders favored different colors of carrots — sometimes purple, sometimes white, and today, orange. Earlier this month, scientists were able to pin down the precise carrot gene which gives rise to carotenoids, a critical source of Vitamin A and the source of their now characteristic orange pigment.

Modern carrot

Modern carrot

Farmers domesticated these thin, white roots, which had a strong flavor and biennial flower, into these large, tasty orange veggies that are an annual winter crop. Earlier this month, scientists were able to pin down the precise carrot gene which gives rise to carotenoids, a critical source of Vitamin A and the source of their now characteristic orange pigment.

Wild peach

Wild peach

Peaches were once small, cherry-like fruits with little flesh. They were first domesticated around 4,000 BC by the ancient Chinese and tasted earthy and slightly salty, "like a lentil," according to Kennedy.

Modern peach

Modern peach

But after thousands of years of farmers selectively breeding them, peaches are now a hefty 64 times larger. They're also roughly 27% juicier and 4% sweeter. Yum.

So next time someone tells you we shouldn't be eating food that's been genetically modified, you can tell them we already are.

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