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When we grow our food gardens we often focus on the vegetables and maybe a few fruits, but give little regard to edible seeds. However, seeds are packed with vital nutrients, healthy fats, and protein that fruits and vegetables aren’t necessarily adept at delivering.
Case in point, those legumes that plant-based eaters turn to time and again for the protein are seeds. For many a vegan, it’s beans and peas that occupy the centerpiece of meals. They are filling and filled with nourishment.
What this article is about are the seeds that don’t fall in the legume, grain, or nut category. These are the seeds we usually refer to as seeds, and it turns out we can readily grow them in our gardens!
In recent years, there has been a spotlight on seeds that can be used in lieu of grains. While wheat, corn, oats, and rice are classic and true grains, protein-rich “grains” like amaranth and quinoa are actually seeds. They don’t come from grasses but rather flowers.
- Amaranth has edible seeds and leaves. To grow the seeds, the flowers should be sowed in early summer. They’ll take between three and four months to mature. The flowers are massive, measuring up to two feet long. They are packed with seeds! There are around 70 varieties of amaranth to choose from, some better for leaves and others for seeds. Check out Burgundy, Opopeo, and Mercado.
- Quinoa is another flower with grain-like, protein-rich seeds. It doesn’t do well in ultra-hot environments (over 90°F), and it likes cool nights. Like another cold-loving crop, spinach, quinoa often won’t germinate when soil temperatures are too warm (over 60°F). Quinoa should be left in the garden until the leaves have fallen and the flower heads have dried. Before using the seeds, they must be washed several times.
Other seeds we prize for being seeds can be eaten alone as such. In this case, we can turn to seeds we get from crops, such as squash or pumpkins, or we might think of those amazing sunflowers.
- Pumpkins grown for seeds are usually special varieties. They will be less fleshy than the ones we use for pies or soup. In this case, we are looking for pumpkins denoted as oil seeds or pepitas. Pepitas are usually don’t have hulls. The most popular varieties for these easy-to-use seeds are Styrian, Kakai, Sweetnut, and Lady Godiva.
- Sunflower seeds feel like a pastoral pastime, popping them in the mouth, hull and all, and crudely spitting them out. There are lots of different types of sunflowers, most of which have been bred for flower production rather than seed. Seed producers tend to be huge, growing over 12-feet tall with flowers over a foot across: Mammoth Russian, Mammoth Grey Stripe, and Titan. There are some smaller, hybrid varieties—Royal and Super Snack— that stay about human height.
Lastly, those of us on health-kicks have become accustomed to adding seeds to recipes to up the nutritional value of what we are eating. These are the kind of seeds we might toss in oatmeal or sprinkle over a bowl of fruit. They have some flavor, but they are really valuable for quality nutrition.
- Chia is famously easy to grow, as in “chia pets”. Since the 80s fad, however, we have come to value chia as a healthy food rather than a kitschy pot plant. Chia plants actually grow to the size of small trees. That’s a lot of teaspoons of chia seeds!
- Flax is a classic garden seed. In the past, the plants were very popular for producing linen, but now they garner just as much attention for the nutritive value of flax seeds. Flax likes to be planted in the cool weather, as soon as the ground can be worked.
- Poppy seeds famously adorn buns and bagels. They have a pleasant flavor and grow like a weed in less than ideal conditions: gravelly spots and so on. They are great at self-sowing, so they can become an easy annual harvest without having to plant them again and again.
Growing edible seeds at home is a fun adventure, one that more of us could be taking. A good seed harvest can be as exciting as a basket of fresh produce. Plus, the dietary impact of edible seeds is profound: healthy fats, quality protein, varied vitamins, and multiple minerals to boot. Why not grow a flower garden full of edible goodness!?
- From Organic and Heirloom to Hybrid: Different Kinds of Seeds to Buy
- How to Save Seeds (and Money!) When You Grow Your Own Veggies
- How to Repurpose Vegetable Seeds Between Growing Seasons
- How to Choose Seeds for a Healthier, Happier Garden
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