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Expat wanderer

Nuts vs Seeds

AdventureMan and I got into a discussion the other day of “what is a nut, what is a seed, what makes a peanut a legume?” We could guess, but we didn’t have any hard evidence.

God bless Google, and God bless my friend Coeurcountry, who told me about Dogpile, too, because this morning we looked up Nuts vs seeds, and got this comprehensive answer from Newton: Ask a Scientist at the US Department of Energy web page:

Question – What is the difference between a nut and a seed. How can
you define the difference. Some say that a nut has a hard shell, and a
seed can produce a plant. But many nuts like hazel nuts, and walnuts
produce new plants, such as trees. What is the difference????
A nut is a type of fruit. So then what is a fruit?

A fruit is a mature ovary from a flower. Every fruit contains one or more

And what is a seed?

A seed is an embryonic plant encased in a covering, called the seed coat or
integument. Every seed has the potential to germinate and grow into a mature
adult plant.

After a flower is pollinated, sperm are delivered to the eggs, deep down in
the part of the flower called the ovary. After the eggs are fertilized, each
one can develop into an embryo enclosed by an integument. That is a seed. As
seeds mature, the surrounding ovary tissue develops into a fruit. This fruit
can take many forms; some plants make berries (like blueberries or
tomatoes), some make legumes (like peas and beans), some make dry capsules
(like poppies).

Other plants make pretty bizarre fruits; grasses make a
fruit called a caryopsis (like a grain of wheat or a corn kernel) and
members of the daisy family make a fruit called a cypsela (the little
parachute things that we like to blow off the tops of dandelions).
To answer the question: many plants make a fruit called a nut. Technically,
a nut is a single-seeded fruit with a hard, dry outer wall that doesn’t
crack open at maturity. An acorn (the fruit of an oak tree) is a perfect
example of a nut. By the way, some things we usually call “nuts” are not,
botanically speaking nuts. A peanut (when still in its shell) is a legume.
An almond is a type of fruit called a drupe. A coconut is also a drupe.

Here is a good resource that explains, in very simple terms, how botanists
think about fruits:

C. Perkins
Nuts ARE seeds. A fruit is the part of a plant that contains the seeds. So
the nutshell is the fruit, and the nut is the seed.

A nut is a hard-shelled dry fruit or seed that you can sperate the rind or
shell and interior kernel.

A seed if the fertilized inside part of a flowering plant and that germinate
and form a new plant.

So, the seed might only have one covering, like a sunflower seed, or none at
all, like a dandelion seed. A nut would have a thick, seperate covering like
a walnut seed.

Grace Field
Dear Susan,

I went right to the source on this one; Webster’s dictionary. A nut is “the
dry, one-seeded fruit of any of various trees or bushes, consisting of a
kernel, often edible, in a hard and woody or tough and leathery shell more
or less separable from the seed itself: walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, acorns,
etc. are all nuts. 2. the kernel or meat of such a fruit. 3. loosely, any
hard-shelled fruit that will keep more or less indefinitely; peanuts,
almonds, and cashews are also called nuts.”

A seed is defined as “the part of a flowering plant that contains the
embryo and will develop into a new plant if sown; a fertilized and mature

It seems a nut is really a fruit which technically means it contains the
seeds of the plant that produces it. Perhaps we can say all nuts are seeds
but not all seeds are nuts.

Maybe there’s a botanist out there who could be a little more specific for
you. I hope this helps a little anyway.

Martha Croll

June 11, 2008 - Posted by | Customer Service, Food


  1. This is really important information! 😀
    My head is spinning!

    Comment by Aafke | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  2. seeds are the devil. so very addictive and fattening 😦 whyf fatf whyyyf

    Comment by Mrm | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  3. Aafke – LLOOLLL!

    Mrm – I agree . . . but now we are also told they are GOOD for us! Yayyyy!

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 12, 2008 | Reply

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