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Which grocery store food grains and seeds will definitely NOT germinate due to processing?

 
Dan Boone
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Here's a topic about which I have a lot of small confusions. Hopefully everyone will pile in to pool their casual germination experiments from over the years or their knowledge about the effects of commercial seed and grain processing for the food supply chain.

I'm posting this in the Gardening for Beginners section because it's a beginner question. So as not to mislead anyone, I should hasten to point out that buying seeds or seed grain that has been processed and stored and sold for seed use is always your safest bet -- there are many potential advantages. Planting seeds and grains sold for food use is riskier because it has not been stored under ideal conditions to maximize germination, it may not be as free from plant diseases, and you may not have good information about precisely which species and cultivar made it into your grocery store.

However, commercial seed is expensive, especially in quantity. Even if you have a good source for bulk agricultural seeds near you (which you may not) there's often a volume gap between consumer packets and fifty-pound bags. If you just want a pound of seed, it can be hard to find someone to sell it to you locally, and shipment from afar radically drives up the cost.

So the temptation is often there to plant seeds and grains that we already have in our kitchens, especially if we are primarily interested in soil reclamation of smaller areas, green manures, ground cover, and similar non-crop plantings where cheapness and current availability of the seed emphatically is more important that a sure crop.

So you're in your kitchen looking at all your dry seeds and grains and legumes and whole spices, thinking about sowing a cup or two of this or a pinch of that. Will it grow? Or has this foodstuff been processed in some non-obvious way that utterly prevents any hope of germination? (Such as with heat, chemicals, or mechanical processing, especially threshing.) It would be nice to know what's impossible, to save wasteful or time-consuming experimentation.

There are some treatments that are obvious. Nuts that have been roasted won't germinate; raw nuts that have been shelled possibly (probably?) won't either. Grains that have been threshed to remove hulls may or may not sprout, but if they've been further polished or pearled to remove the seed coat, they certainly will not sprout. It's not always visually obvious, especially on the smaller stuff. And I have vast areas of ignorance (which Google does not readily resolve) about which grains require threshing before they reach the consumer and which do not. Some of my areas of confusion include:

1) Sesame seeds, raw. Have they been threshed/dehulled before they reach the consumer?

2) Buckwheat. I have buckwheat for sprouting purchased from one source at some expense; it's black. I have buckwheat for cooking purchased more cheaply elsewhere; it's much ligher color and the grains are smaller, but visually similar to the sprouting grains. Has the food grain had its hull removed, or is it just a different variety? There's a "debris may be present" on the food grain label, but whether that's a warning about hull pieces or small rocks, I dunno.

3) Various tree nuts: some sources report that even raw nuts in their shells that appear in supermarkets have been heat treated to kill bugs and prevent germination. True, or food-forester-legend? Or perhaps a sometimes-thing but not a universal practice?

4) Millet. Has food millet been threshed, hulled, or polished? Similar uncertainty exists for any small-size grains and seeds that we aren't familiar with the production processes of.

5) Poppy seeds for baking?

I could go on at length, but I would merely be repeating variations on a theme. Others here may have similar questions about the foods they've contemplated planting -- if so, by all means bring them up in this thread!

I'll start by sharing one experiment I already did. I was unsure whether my cheap dollar-store lentils would sprout readily (like most whole legumes) or whether they'd been damaged in processing, so I did a quick germination test. They germinated almost instantly when left in a little bowl on my counter in moist paper towels. Definitely viable!

Your turn...
 
Miles Flansburg
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I wonder about this everytime I am in the spice isle.

Things like :
mustard seed, cumin seed, dill seed, fennel seed, anise seed, etc etc.

 
Dan Boone
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Miles Flansburg wrote:I wonder about this everytime I am in the spice isle.

Things like :
mustard seed, cumin seed, dill seed, fennel seed, anise seed, etc etc.



I've had great luck with grocery store dill and fennel. I scattered some old star anise last winter but never found any plants from it, though I've seen them growing wild on the Black Sea coast (a very very long way from here). Mustard seed I believe I've had good luck with, but I was also scattering seed-packet mustard seed so I can't prove it. I've added a pinch of cumin seed to a few of my seed scatterings but not seen any cumin plants yet. However I haven't done any petri-dish style germination tests on any of these.
 
leila hamaya
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i've wondered about this too.
so far mostly i have sprouted fruit tree seeds, and had pretty good results. not ideal, not excellent, but a few sprouts out of dozen or so...sometimes less.
i even sprouted some blueberry seeds from some blueberries, these were more specialty organic super natural ones...got a few sprouts out of a lot of seeds. gotten apple, asian pear, lemons, plums this way...but failed on every cherry i ever tried. got some avocado trees that never produced avocados....also got kiwis to start from grocery store kiwis...in a short time special i grabbed up a lot of golden kiwis when they briefly were on the market shelves, got them planted up....we will see how that goes.

just found these "fallglo" tangerines that have tons of seeds in each, trying those now. i guess i am the reverse of many people, with all the seedless varieties of oranges available if one said instead "seedy oranges" i would buy more of those! i discovered this without having a sign, just finding this one type always had seeds.... and had to look up the PLU # (#3144). hopes for the best i may get some sprouts. it is odd in that its a tangerine with 20 + seeds in each...probably people think is a bad quality but i think its great =).

have also tried poppy seeds and did get those to work.

as for your questions about raw nuts, i wonder the same thing. from what i have gleaned some stuff that says it is "raw" is actually still processed, something that truly annoys raw foodists. but there are some better companies that truly mean raw, when they label it raw. so you have to do research i guess, to figure out which ones are truly raw. if it doesnt even claim to be raw its surely processed in a way that will make it unlikely to sprout, as well as if its from another country. import laws require foods to be processed and are irradiated, according to what i have figured out....it also needs to be fresh enough...

i have wanted to try to order some nuts from there people...i believe their nuts are both truly raw and fresh enough to possibly sprout.

http://www.nuts.com/tag/raw

also:
http://www.nuts.com/tag/raw/in%20shell

otherwise its hard to find nut seeds...but i like the one site i have been going over, window shopping from internetsland...

the farmer's market is an even better place to get seeds...actually inside the fruit/veggie....thats where i got the garlic i have enjoyed so much...though i will never know the exact cultivar...
 
Dan Boone
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Leila I see we are alike in one way -- I've added a whole new heuristic to my grocery shopping, especially if I am in a new or unfamiliar store. Every item I see now includes (after or sometimes before the "is this something I can, should, or would like to eat?" question) also gets the "is this an item that might contain viable seeds or live roots that I could hope to plant?" inspection.

I haven't had any luck with cherry seeds either, and the internet says they are hard. I got some to sprout in my fridge when I left them too long stratifying, but they didn't grow at all when potted, possibly because they had sat too long first or possibly because of my general brown thumb where delicate seedlings are concerned.

I have wondered about blueberries and kiwis, although I think I need cultivars diverse from the ones in the common chain of food commerce to produce fruit here.

I can't do citrus here at all but I recognize your "I'd rather not buy the seedless ones" impulse from my relationship with grapes. I have been eating one variety of seeded table grapes (it's a red globe) and saving seeds to experiment with, even though (as with apples) all the supposed experts advise against it. But my limited budget only stretched to three grape starts this spring and none of them thrived (well, one of them did until it got eaten by something.) So, as with so many things I'm doing, I resort to the genetic material I can get my hands on.

The nuts I have experimented with were raw almonds (in and out of their shells) and filberts (in shell). So far, no germination, but I haven't approached it scientifically or in large volume. Planning to do some bigger-scale germination tests later this winter.
 
William Bronson
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Buckwheat grows well and easily.
I buy in bulk from whole foods,throw seeds everywhere, get lot's of white flowers that bee's love. I let all of them go to seed, hoping they establish themselves so I never have to plant them again.

Next year I will plant sorghum from bobs red mill and pidgin peas from the bodega down the street.

Among "grains " not all are easy hand harvested.
 
leila hamaya
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Dan Boone wrote:Leila I see we are alike in one way -- I've added a whole new heuristic to my grocery shopping, especially if I am in a new or unfamiliar store. Every item I see now includes (after or sometimes before the "is this something I can, should, or would like to eat?" question) also gets the "is this an item that might contain viable seeds or live roots that I could hope to plant?" inspection.

I haven't had any luck with cherry seeds either, and the internet says they are hard. I got some to sprout in my fridge when I left them too long stratifying, but they didn't grow at all when potted, possibly because they had sat too long first or possibly because of my general brown thumb where delicate seedlings are concerned.

I have wondered about blueberries and kiwis, although I think I need cultivars diverse from the ones in the common chain of food commerce to produce fruit here.

I can't do citrus here at all but I recognize your "I'd rather not buy the seedless ones" impulse from my relationship with grapes. I have been eating one variety of seeded table grapes (it's a red globe) and saving seeds to experiment with, even though (as with apples) all the supposed experts advise against it. But my limited budget only stretched to three grape starts this spring and none of them thrived (well, one of them did until it got eaten by something.) So, as with so many things I'm doing, I resort to the genetic material I can get my hands on.

The nuts I have experimented with were raw almonds (in and out of their shells) and filberts (in shell). So far, no germination, but I haven't approached it scientifically or in large volume. Planning to do some bigger-scale germination tests later this winter.


i will be curious to hear what happens with your nut experiment. let us know how it goes.
and i think its possible you could get a few good grapes that way. a lot of perennials are hard to start, but just needs the cold strat method.

yeah i rather forget how awesome it is that i can grow lemon and kiwi and etc....but even for me i am just on the edge of their comfort zone as far as getting a few big freezes.
it is possible maybe that you could get kiwi going, but i could be wrong. they are much easier and hardier than one might think, i have found. i am in zone 8 and have dozens of young plants, and some that have made it through three or four winters. i have a friend who grows issai, one of the small cold tolerant ones, hoping to get my hands on a few. i have bought kiwi seeds here and there and only gotten that many seeds and not had any germinate. so kiwi seed needs to be completely fresh i think. i have had much better luck with grocery store kiwis than with buying primo seed. it does take forever though, like over a month to sprout, and they need to be surface sown...then they stay really tiny for over a year...until one day they finally get their groove on and grow huge all of a sudden.

and with cherry i bought/traded for seeds and had a few germinate. just not the grocery store ones, for whatever reason of how they are grown or picked too early, or whatever it is. i wont try store bought cherries again anyway, i tried at least a few times over the years and never got a single one.

but totally i think the same thing while shopping, and maybe now i will extend that to seeds, or grains...which i hadnt ever tried. theres a place where my grocery store puts all their marked down over ripe stuff for like 39 cents or whatever...a whole bag of lemons or oranges, sometimes apples and plums, marked down to 39 cents or approx, for a whole bag! i have picked up quite a few of those for seeds specifically. i have bought and traded for some other fresh lemon/orange seeds...but a lot of the baby trees i have came from those marked down over ripe bags!

even in a colder climate a lemon or citrus tree makes a nice houseplant. it is possible to grow them out to maturity in pots because they dont have a long taproot, they form shallow roots that do ok in containers.
maybe worth adding i certainly grow out roots that i get that way too, like sweet potatoes, ginger (finally got some going!), cutting off the potato eyes, and leaving the bottom of onions intact so they can form new roots and grow a new bulb. i guess you can also do this with carrots and celery too... people say not to do this with potatoes, because they can have funks that then get in your soil, but maybe i just pick good ones cause i havent had it be weird. it worked fine for me....
 
Dan Boone
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I found an older thread on a very similar topic: http://www.permies.com/t/20033/plants/Buying-seeds-bulk-section-grocery#167264
 
Dan Boone
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And here's another: http://www.permies.com/t/15418/organic/Growing-popcorn-beans-store#136650
 
R Scott
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Almost all almonds, even the ones that say raw, have been treated in some way--heated or microwaved to kill some bug egg per Kali law.


 
Jorge Fonseca
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What will NOT germinate? First I must contradict whoever said sesame because all the sesame in my garden grew from seeds bought in a grocery store... OK? That's the first thing... the second thing is seed viability... because many seeds lose viability after one year stored in shelves... when they are put for sale their germination rate is 95%, after eight months it plummets to 60%, after a year or two you are lucky if you germinate anything. With that being said I never managed to germinate soybean from the grocery store exactly because of that... because they are not fresh enough... just like humans... the older the seed the less viable it is until one day nothing germinates there anymore.
 
Mike Feddersen
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The wife and I were on a white peach kick for awhile, driving a semi in AZ I would toss my pitts in a box.
I came across the box and put them in the poor excuse for a flower bed in our backyard, forgot about them.
I was weeding some bermuda grass out of flower bed and yanking these strange weeds around 8" tall, up comes one with the peach pit. OMG!
I ended up with two that survived, reached about 8 feet tall the first season, as they flowered I would pull these, I had heard it helps the roots grow. By end of year two the trees were 10-12 feet tall. A few small peaches, third year produce about a dozen small edible peaches. Then we moved so I don't know...
 
Mike Feddersen
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I remembered that I had planted some romaine lettuce that went to seed and replanted those seeds, so I know some romaine will grow over and over. I can't vouch for the taste but I planted it for my desert tortoise.

I mentioned in the post above about white peach pits planted, here is like a quarter of one of the plants in the background of my kid watering. Also the pineapple plant that I let dry on the counter thsn planted. It did good as an ornament outside till a frost hit it hard. Around two years old here. http://feddersenfamily.blogspot.com/2009/12/here-i-am-sick-with-flu-and-daddy-has.html?m=1
 
Patrick Kniesler
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I wonder if seeds we get at the store will not produce edibles, anyway. Like if you plant apple seeds you will not get the same cultivar - what if your fennel seeds come up and the produce tastes bad.
 
R Ranson
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Great info on this thread.

One option for more affordable seed - more affordable than grocery store stuff even - is livestock feed. Livestock feed is usually not subjected to as much processing as grocery store seeds. I've also found them to have a much higher germination rate - usually over 95%.

If I buy bulk grocery store barley (hull on) it's about $1 a pound. To buy a 45lb bag of organic livestock feed barley it's about $20.



I don't know all the grains on the list, but I have played around with a few. Here's my thoughts:

2) Buckwheat.

When I buy buckwheat for animal feed it has this hard shell on it. The ones I bought from the store do not. Once you've seen the shell, it's pretty obvious if it has it or not. I haven't tried grocery store buckwheat, but the feed store hull on stuff germinates and grows like stink.

3) Various tree nuts

Nuts from Europe or middle east germinate fine for me (well, fine as in usual expected germination for nuts). Also ones bought from local small producers grow. Any from the US don't grow at all. Canadian nuts are hit and miss. Thanks to this thread, now I know why.

4) Millet. and small seeds like it.

My main experience is with amaranth, but I think it applies to millet and quinoa equally well. Yes, the stuff from the store looks the same as seed. I haven't tried growing grocery store version yet, but have heard of others with good expense.

5) Poppy seeds for baking?

There are a lot of political and legal issues here. Most of the legal issues in the US depend if you act knowingly.

To quote Michael Pollan "...let me offer a friendly warning to any gardeners who might wish to continue growing this spectacular annual: the less you know about it, the better off you are, in legal if not horticultural terms. Because whether or not the ... poppies in your garden are illicit depends not on what you do, or even intend to do, with them but very simply on what you know about them."

If you want to know more about the legal issues in the US regarding poppies, 'special' or otherwise, have a read of Michael Pollan's article. He also discusses the similarities between 'special' poppies and bread poppies.

But yes, baking poppy seeds should germinate just fine.


Barley - barley for malting keeps it's hull on. Whole grain barley groats have their hull off but their germ still there. Pearl Barley has the germ (aka, part that grows) removed.


For a good resource on how grains are processed, head down to your local library or book store and get your hands on Small Scale Grain Raising by Logsdon or failing that Homegrown Whole Grains by Pitzer. These books are excellent for showing you the different processing methods and at what point the germ is removed.
 
Sharon Carson
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I have grown upland rice ,buckwheat, many types of OP corn and goldern grain amaranth . I sell seeds for the corn and amaranth as well as fertile black walnut . I am experimenting with a rare oat that I brought back from Ireland . I want to grow some rre wheats too .I have a special rubber disk for dehullingseed using a hand grain mill. . It is a lot of hand work doing any of this so you can't mind a bit of work.....
 
Simone Gar
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I have grown from buckwheat, millet, amaranth, flax out of the bulk section. The buckwheat and millet were definitely hulled. Still worked like a charm.
I would be careful with poppy seeds, it's illegal to grow that type of poppies in some countries.

This year I will try dill, fennel, celery, dill, fenugreek and coriander from the spice aisle, as well as barley, rye and peanuts
 
Simone Gar
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One more thing, anything from seeds for sprouting works great. I get my daikon like that. Organic too!

If somebody has experience with flax... what's the difference in brown and golden flax. Does it flower differently?
 
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