Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger dreamed up the story after remembering how teachers at his school in Austria teased his classmates for being so stupid, if they were told spaghetti grew on trees they would believe it.
The report was produced as an April Fools' Day joke in 1957, showing a family in the canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland as they gathered a bumper spaghetti harvest after a mild winter and "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil". Footage of a traditional "Harvest Festival" was aired along with a discussion of the breeding necessary to develop a strain to produce the perfect length. Some scenes were filmed at the (now closed) Pasta Foods factory on London Road, St Albans in Hertfordshire and at a hotel in Castagnola, Switzerland.
The report was made more believable through its voiceover by respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. Pasta was not an everyday food in 1950s Britain, known mainly from tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce and considered by many to be an exotic delicacy.
At the time there were 7 million homes in Britain with television sets, out of a total of 15.8 million homes. An estimated 8 million people watched the programme on 1 April and hundreds phoned in the following day to question the authenticity of the story or ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC reportedly told them to "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best".