Author's note: I'm re-running this story from 2010 to celebrate World Pasta Month, and also the surprisingly robust ziti harvest reported in Milan. Enjoy!
On April 1, 1957, BBC television viewers were treated to a short documentary about the spaghetti harvest in Ticino, Switzerland. The film showed spaghetti trees laden with ripe pasta, and Swiss farmers harvesting long strands and laying them out to dry "in the warm alpine sun." The public's reaction ranged from curiosity to outrage (at the time, pasta was an unusual dish in Britain, so the story was at least vaguely plausible). The BBC wrote:
The BBC has received a mixed reaction to a spoof documentary broadcast this evening about spaghetti crops in Switzerland. The hoax Panorama programme, narrated by distinguished broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. ... But some viewers failed to see the funny side of the broadcast and criticised the BBC for airing the item on what is supposed to be a serious factual programme. Others, however, were so intrigued they wanted to find out where they could purchase their very own spaghetti bush.
It's believed that this spoof is the first time television was used for an April Fool's prank. Check it out:
The story became more complex in 1967 when Australia was hit by a terrible "Spag Worm." ("The worm actually lives in the hollow stem of the spaghetti flower!") Here: