Seeds As Food

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Seeds are our most durable and concentrated foods. They’re rugged lifeboats, designed to carry a plant’s offspring to the shore of an uncertain future. Tease apart a whole grain, or bean, or nut, and inside you find a tiny embryonic shoot. At harvest time that shoot had entered suspended animation, ready to survive months of drought or cold while waiting for the right moment to come back to life. The bulk of the tissue that surrounds it is a food supply to nourish this rebirth. It’s the distillation of the parent plant’s lifework, its gathering of water and nitrogen and minerals from the soil, carbon from the air, and energy from the sun. And as such it’s an invaluable resource for us and other creatures of the animal kingdom who are unable to live on soil and sunlight and air. In fact, seeds gave early humans both the nourishment and the inspiration to begin to shape the natural world to their own needs. Ten thousand turbulent years of civilization have unfolded from the seed’s pale repose.