The Spaghetti Tree, aka the Greatest April Fool’s Day Prank Ever

The next time you doubt how far society has come in understanding what we eat and from where our food comes, consider the epic prank the BBC pulled on this day in 1957.

The three-minute reel, narrated authoritatively by British broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, featured a family in Switzerland who appeared to pluck strands of pasta from trees during the annual spaghetti harvest.

The family was enjoying a bountiful crop that year, Dimbleby stated, thanks in part to the early arrival of spring. And that wasn’t all. “Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, a tiny creature whose depredations have caused much concern in the past,” Dimbeby said.

Scores of viewers failed to grasp the significance of the special’s April 1st air date. Many called in inquiring where they could obtain their own spaghetti bush. And with a stiff upper lip, BBC representatives simply replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce, and hope for the best.”

In 2009, CNN proclaimed the segment “undoubtedly the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled,” and the BBC reckons the incident could very well be the first April Fool’s joke ever pulled off on television.

It seems that the BBC is still keeping up the gag. Take a look at this profile of the “spaghetti tree” on the BBC Nature web site: ”Spaghetti trees are an important commercial crop plant and well-known example of where money almost literally grows on trees.”

Sorry, BBC—you won’t get us this time.