The Q&A Archives: Packaged Seeds vs. Fresh Seeds

Question: My son is doing a research project on the pros and cons of packaged seeds vs fresh seeds from an actual plant. We were hoping that you might provide some information from your point of view although it might be somewhat biased.

Answer: It really all depends on the plant. Some seeds, like tomatoes, need a post-harvest treatment to ensure viability. (Think about it--what keeps those tomato seeds from sprouting inside that warm, moist tomato?) Some seeds need to be left on the plant to mature--often the fruits and vegetables we pick to eat contain immature seeds that won't grow. Finally, hybrid plants often don't grow "true-to-type". These plants have been cross-bred and back-crossed so that plants grown from their fruit's seeds may produce fruits very different from the parent plant's. (A tomato seed from a hybrid will still produce a tomato plant, but the fruit might be hard or bitter, harkening back to the plant's ancestors.) Finally, you have to consider whether the plants cross-pollinate. If you have a squash patch and some pumpkins, bees might cross-pollinate the flowers. If you plant the resulting fruit's seeds, you may get some strange squash-pumpkin cross, resembling neither parent.

Many seeds germinate just fine from collected seed. These are just some examples of what can happen. I hope your son gets bitten by the "botany" bug--as you can see, I'm hooked!

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