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Difference Between Seeds and Grains

Seeds vs Grains

A seed is defined as an embryonic plant covered in a seed coat, often containing some food. It is formed from the ripened ovule of plants after fertilization. Seed formation completes the reproduction cycle in seed plants, which begins with the growth of flowers and pollination. The embryo grows from the zygote while the seed coat grows from the ovule rind.

A grain is a small edible fruit, usually hard on the outside, harvested from grassy crops. Grains basically grow in a cluster on atop the mature plant and they include wheat, oats, rice and barley. Because grains are generally grown on a large scale, they are considered staple crops and they are the number one energy providers worldwide.

Technically speaking, we can refer to a seed as an ovule containing an embryo within, while a grain is a fusion of the seed coat and the fruit. In some grains like peanut, the shell can be separated from the fruit to reveal the seed. However, in other grains like corn, the seed coat and fruit tissue cannot be separated.

A seed typically has three basic parts which are the embryo, seed coat and the endosperm. Obviously, the embryo is the most important part because it is its cells that eventually differentiate and grow into the various tissues that constitute the plant eventually. The seed coat and endosperm simply provide support, although they are critical to the embryo’s development.

Grains provide food mainly from the fruit part, for instance, food from wheat grain is derived from the ground fruit, which is a part of the grain. In crops like millet, it is actually the seed that has properties very similar to those of the fruit part of the grains, and that is why it is handled as a grain in culinary terms.

In seeds like peas (and pea-like seeds), sections of their embryo have very mealy properties when they are dried comparable to those of grains. These could be ground to get flour which can be very similar to the one taken from typical grains in culinary terms.


1. A seed is an ovule containing an embryo while a grain is a fusion of the seed coat and the fruit.
2. Typically, seeds are planted to grow plants while grains are harvested for food.
3. Grains provide food from the fruit part while seeds mainly provide food from embryo parts.

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  1. difference btw seed and grain.

  2. Just to clarify, peanuts are not a grain, they are a legume and related to peas and beans. Other then that you hit the nail on the head. I’d suggest correcting that one incorrect idea that you’ve presented to make your post a great and accurate resource for answering this often asked question.

  3. One for production and one for consumption. Its simple

    • But it isn’t that simple. For example corn is grown for our consumption. The corn kernels (the grains) are planted for production, for consumption. So doesn’t that make the corn kernel or the wheat, oat, barley, ect. the seed of that plant?

  4. More confused than ever. It seems the definitions are hazy, and we use an approximation to evaluate what is what. I know what a seed is versus a grain, but I don’t seem to find a technical description. To me a seed and a grain are almost the same thing, but a grain is a human cultivated seed usually from a grass like plant. A seed can refer to something wild or something cultivated. A grain is always something cultivated. Thanks for posting this article though…

  5. as posted above a peanut is a legume, course everybody knows this,except maybe you. i can see no difference between a grain and a seed,for you see both when planted will reproduce in kind. someone said above that grains are always cultivated and this is not so,because once,all of these grains and/ or seeds,grew wild ! so i speculate that there is no difference,except for what people want to refer these things as being !

  6. A grain is a seed that comes from a grass.

  7. I agree with Tom and Ken, in practical terms I cannot see a difference other than maybe what Soni Biehl referred to.

    When planted both reproduce the original so why call it
    ‘grain’ instead of ‘seed’?
    Actually come to think of it we have what we call ‘seed grain’ kept for next year’s crop, just to confuse the issue further

  8. The main difference is….

    Seeds are considered OK by paleo diet fans, while grains are vilified as an evil curse that will make you fat, sick and bloated for life.

    • The article clearly states that grains are essentially a type of fruit: “A grain is a small edible fruit”. In that case, I would like to know why the Paleo diet abhors grains and recommends fruit. Just because grains are smaller than other fruit? Not a terribly convincing argument.

  9. Well, there is this:
    “HIERACHY: “Seed” is the most basic term, the other terms are characterizations of seeds. However, the use of any given term in a culinary settings may have little to do with the term’s strict botanical definition. For culinary purposes there are no definite rules for which things are called nuts, pits, beans, grains, etc.

    For example, the term beans used to be exclusively used for broad beans (fava beans), but today we use the term to describe plants as biologically and geographically disparate as soy, garbanzo, coffee, legumes, castor, and cocoa.

    Kernel does not only refer to the center part of a nut. It is also regularly used to refer to the individual seeds of corn/maize, wheat, buckwheat, and barley.

    Grains used to refer specifically to the seeds of grass food crops like wheat, barley, oats, and corn/maize. Today it is also a catch-all term which is used for similar food crops that are not grass seeds such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, and even soy.

    As a culinary term, “nut” has also undergone an expansion of meaning from, as you put it, “a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed, which is generally edible” to include basically any relatively large, oily kernels found within a shell and used in food. In fact, the majority of the “nuts” we commonly eat are not true nuts.”

    And then this:

    “Millet, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are described as grains, but while they are indeed granular, they are in fact seeds. The difference? I consulted my friendly agronomist, who explained that very broadly, grains contain a food source as well as the necessaries for germination. Seeds are embryonic plants.”´╗┐

  10. It is very nice defined. Thanks for the answer

  11. Sir i am kabaddi plyer

  12. I’m glad I’m not the only one! I was still confused as heck after reading this explanation. But it was actually informative, so I give props for that. And now I actually DO know the difference. I agree with others that there basically is NO difference, technically, between the two, other than purpose. Grains are basically fruit with seed fused together, from grasses, cultivated for food primarily, But you can plant grains such as rice, which are fused with their seed, for cultivation. And seeds are just the actual seeds of fruits from non-grass plants. I think?

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