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List of edible seeds

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cereals are edible seeds that are used to create many different food products.

An edible seed[n 1] is a seed that is suitable for human or animal consumption. Of the six major plant parts,[n 2] seeds are the dominant source of human calories and protein.[1] A wide variety of plant species provide edible seeds; most are angiosperms, while a few are gymnosperms. As a global food source, the most important edible seeds by weight are cereals, followed by legumes, nuts,[2] then spices.

Cereals (grain crops) and legumes (pulses) correspond with the botanical families Poaceae and Fabaceae, respectively, while nuts, pseudocereals, and other seeds form polyphylic groups based on their culinary roles.

Grains (cereals and millets)[edit]

Grains are the edible seed of a plants in the grass family Poaceae. Grains come in two varieties, the larger grains produced by drought-sensitive crops are called cereals, and the smaller drought-resistant varieties are millets. Grains can be consumed in a variety of ways, all of which require husking and cooking, including whole, rolled, puffed, or ground into flour. Many cereals are present or past staple foods, providing a large fraction of the calories in the places in which they are eaten. Today, cereals provide almost half of all calories consumed in the world.[3]

Family Tribe Genus Species Seed name(s) Photo
Poaceae Andropogoneae Sorghum S. bicolor sorghum
Zea Z. mays maize, corn, corn kernel
Eragrostideae Eleusine E. coracana finger millet
Eragrostis E. tef teff
Oryzeae Oryza O. sativa Asian rice
O. glaberrima African rice
Zizania wild rice
Paniceae Digitaria D. exilis black fonio
D. iburua white fonio
Panicum P. miliaceum proso millet
P. sumatrense little millet
Pennisetum P. glaucum pearl millet
Setaria S. italica foxtail millet
Poeae Avena A. sativa oat, oat groat
Triticeae Hordeum H. vulgare barley, barley groat
Secale S. cereale rye, rye berry
× Triticosecale triticale
Triticum T. aestivum wheat, wheat berry
T. durum durum, durum wheat
T. monococcum einkorn
T. spelta spelt, spelt wheat
T. turanicum kamut
T. turgidum emmer
Thinopyrum T. intermedium Kernza

Other grasses with edible seeds include:


A pseudocereal, or pseudocereal grain, is the edible seed of a pseudocereal, one of a polyphyletic group of plants that produce seeds that resemble those of cereals. Pseudocereals are used in many of the same ways as cereals.

Family Genus Species Seed name(s) Photo
Amaranthaceae Amaranthus amaranth, amaranth grain
Chenopodium C. berlandieri pitseed goosefoot
C. pallidicaule kañiwa
C. quinoa quinoa
Capparaceae Boscia B. senegalensis hanza
Lamiaceae Salvia S. hispanica chia, chia seed
Linaceae Linum L. usitatissimum flax, flaxseed, linseed
Moraceae Brosimum B. alicastrum breadnut
Pedaliaceae Sesamum S. indicum sesame, sesame seed
Polygonaceae Fagopyrum F. esculentum buckwheat, buckwheat groat


A legume, or pulse, is the edible seed of a legume, a plant in the family Fabaceae.[4] Legumes can be divided into grams, which do not split, and dals, which split.

Family Tribe Genus Species Seed name(s) Photo
Fabaceae Dalbergieae Arachis A. hypogaea peanut (groundnut)
Cicereae Cicer C. arietinum chickpea, garbanzo bean, gram
Fabeae Pisum P. sativum pea[n 3]
Millettieae Millettia M. pinnata Indian beechnut
Phaseoleae Cajanus C. Cajan pigeon pea
Glycine G. max soybean
Phaseolus P. lunatus lima bean
P. vulgaris common bean[n 4]
Vigna V.aconitifolia moth bean
V. angularis adzuki bean
V. mungo black gram
V. radiata mung bean, green gram
V. subterranea Bambara groundnut
V. unguiculata cowpea
Vicieae Lens L. culinaris lentil
Vicia V. faba fava bean, broad bean
Seeds of Atriplex nummularia, Australia

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


Brazil nuts
Roasted and salted cashew nuts
Roasted pistachios
A whole walnut kernel

According to the botanical definition, nuts are a particular kind of fruit.[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 and cashews.[7][8]

Nut-like gymnosperm seeds[edit]

Pine nuts

Edible gymnosperm seeds that resembles nuts include:


Pomegranate has edible seeds.

Other edible seeds that do not neatly fit into the above categories include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Variously referred to as a bean, berry, grain, groat, kernel, nut, or pulse, among other names, depending on the plant from which it derives.
  2. ^ Seed, root, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit.
  3. ^ Cultivars include the snap pea and snow pea (both fruits).
  4. ^ Cultivars include the black bean, green bean (fruit), kidney bean, navy bean, and pinto bean.


  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. ^ 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Lewington, A. (1990). Plants for People. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-520840-5.