A grain is a dry fruit

A grain is not a seed but a dry fruit

Pawel Malczewski
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The definitions of grains and seeds are often confused. Words “grain” and “seed” have various definitions depending on the context. The major difference is the biological one – the grain is a fruit which contains one seed inside, but looks like a seed because the fruit component is thin, dry and fused to a hard seed coat that looks just like a seed coat itself. There are other differences, however, which are best represented by showing a table with various definitions and word uses.
The main differences between grains and seeds are represented in the following table: (1)Prego I, Maldonado S, Otegui M. Seed Structure and Localization of Reserves in Chenopodium quinoa. Annals of Botany 82: 481±488, 1998. Article No. bo980704. Available here. (2)International Agency for Research on Cancer. WHO. Definitions And Classifications For Fruit And Vegetables. Available here. (3)Principles of Cereal Science and Technology. AACC International. Third Edition. Pages 1-22. Structure of Cereals. Available here. (4)Slavin J, Tucker M, Harriman C, Jonnalagadda SS. Whole Grains: Definition, Dietary Recommendations, and Health Benefits. July/August 2013, Volume 58, Number 4 Pages 191-198. Available here. (5)Graham LE, Graham JM, Wilcox LW. Plant biology. 2nd Edition. Available here. (6)Welbaum GE. Vegetable Production and Practices. Cab Interational. Family Poaceae. Chapter 13. Jan 2015. Available here. (7)United States Department of Agriculture. USDA. Whole grain resource. Available here. (8)Roberts M, Reiss M, Monger G. Advanced biology. Nelson.2000. Available here.

Difference typesSeedGrain
Biological differenceDoesn’t have an ovary. It is a ripened ovule.It is a ripened ovary with one ripened ovule inside.
Biological differenceIs not a fruit.Is a fruit with one seed inside.
Biological differenceHas no fruit component. The fruit part of the grain is dry and is fused (stuck with) with the seed coat (cannot separate them).
Biological differenceHas no bran.Has bran – a fusion of fruit wall and hard seed coat.
Common agricultural use Usually planted to grow plants.Harvested for food for livestock animals and humans.
Culinary constituent differenceFrequently used in culinary purposes for their higher fat and fiber contents. Carbohydrate content predominates. Used primarily for culinary purposes for their carbohydrate content.
Culinary usage differenceSnack, sprinkle on breakfast cereal or in salads, seed and nut energy bars, seed and nut protein snacks, oils.Carbohydrate component of the main meal: flour products, pastas, noodles, rice dishes, breads, tortillas, biscuits, cakes, pizza bases, breakfast cereals.
Examples Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seedsGrass family: wheat, barley, rice, corn, barley. Pseudo-grains: quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat.

References   [ + ]

1. Prego I, Maldonado S, Otegui M. Seed Structure and Localization of Reserves in Chenopodium quinoa. Annals of Botany 82: 481±488, 1998. Article No. bo980704. Available here.
2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. WHO. Definitions And Classifications For Fruit And Vegetables. Available here.
3. Principles of Cereal Science and Technology. AACC International. Third Edition. Pages 1-22. Structure of Cereals. Available here.
4. Slavin J, Tucker M, Harriman C, Jonnalagadda SS. Whole Grains: Definition, Dietary Recommendations, and Health Benefits. July/August 2013, Volume 58, Number 4 Pages 191-198. Available here.
5. Graham LE, Graham JM, Wilcox LW. Plant biology. 2nd Edition. Available here.
6. Welbaum GE. Vegetable Production and Practices. Cab Interational. Family Poaceae. Chapter 13. Jan 2015. Available here.
7. United States Department of Agriculture. USDA. Whole grain resource. Available here.
8. Roberts M, Reiss M, Monger G. Advanced biology. Nelson.2000. Available here.

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