List of edible seeds

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This list of edible seeds includes seeds that are directly foodstuffs, rather than yielding derived products.

A variety of species can provide edible seeds. Of the six major plant parts, seeds are the dominant source of human calories and protein.[1] The other five major plant parts are roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Most edible seeds are angiosperms, but a few are gymnosperms. The most important global seed food source, by weight, is cereals, followed by legumes, and nuts.[2]

The list is divided into the following categories:

  • Cereals (or grains) are grass-like crops that are harvested for their dry seeds. These seeds are often ground to make flour. Cereals provide almost half of all calories consumed in the world.[3] Botanically, true cereals are members of the Poaceae, the true grass family.
  • Legumes including beans and other protein-rich soft seeds.
  • Nuts are botanically a specific type of fruit, but the term is also applied to many edible seeds that are not nuts in a botanical sense.
    • Gymnosperms produce nut-like seeds but neither flowers nor fruits.


A mixture of rices, including brown, white, red indica and wild rice (Zizania species)

True cereals are the seeds of certain species of grass. Maize, wheat, and rice account for about half of the calories consumed by people every year.[3] Grains can be ground into flour for bread, cake, noodles, and other food products. They can also be boiled or steamed, either whole or ground, and eaten as is. Many cereals are present or past staple foods, providing a large fraction of the calories in the places that they are eaten. Cereals include:

Other grasses with edible seeds include:


Cooked buckwheat


Beans at a market
Freshly dug peanuts

Beans and other legumes, or pulses, include:[4]

Although some beans can be consumed raw, some need to be heated before consumption. In certain cultures, beans that need heating are initially prepared as a seed cake. Beans that need heating include:[5]


Roasted and salted cashew nuts
Roasted pistachios
A whole walnut kernel

According to the botanical definition, nuts are a particular kind of seed.[6] Chestnuts, hazelnuts, and acorns are examples of nuts under this definition. In culinary terms, however, the term is used more broadly to include fruits that are not botanically qualified as nuts, but that have a similar appearance and culinary role. Examples of culinary nuts include almonds, coconuts, and cashews.[7][8]

Nut-like gymnosperm seeds[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Human Appropriation of the World's Food Supply". Global Change Curriculum. University of Michigan. 2006-01-04. Archived from the original on 2011-12-04. 
  2. ^ Desai, Babasaheb (2000). Handbook of Nutrition and Diet. CRC Press. p. 196. 
  3. ^ a b FAO. "ProdSTAT". FAOSTAT. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  4. ^ "Pulses and derived products". Definition and Classification of Commodities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 1994. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  5. ^ Isaacs, Jennifer. Bush food: Aboriginal food and herbal medicine. 
  6. ^ "Nut". Biology Online Dictionary. October 3, 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  7. ^ "Nut". The Columbia Online Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  8. ^ "Nuts and derived products". Definition and Classification of Commodities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 1996. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bailey, L.H., Bailey, E.Z. and Bailey Hortorium Staff (1976). Hortus Third. New York: Macmillan. 
  • Lewington, A. (1990). Plants for People. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press.