Storing Seeds

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Because most of the seeds we eat are designed to survive a dormant, dry period, they are the easiest food ingredients to store. Whole seeds keep well for months in a dry, cool, dark place. Moisture encourages the growth of spoilage microbes, and physical damage, heat and light can accelerate the oxidation of seed oils that leads to stale, rancid aromas and bitter tastes.

The pest that sometimes infests grains, beans, nuts, and flours is the Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella). It originally came from ears of grain in the field but is now a common inhabitant of our pantries, where its eggs hatch into larvae that consume the seeds and generate unpleasant smells. There’s nothing to do with a contaminated batch but discard it. Keeping seeds in separate glass or plastic jars will prevent one batch from contaminating another.