Seeds are important food eaten by animals, birds and humans. Grains like wheat, corn, rice, rye, beans, peas, soybeans and other legumes are eaten by us. Vegetable oils come from seeds. Seeds also form a part of soaps, paints, lubricants and other products.
Seeds are one of the means by which plants reproduce. Wind carries seeds from place to place. Water also helps in seed dispersal. Rains and floods carry them to long distances. Even birds and animals help disperse seeds. They either carry the seeds on their bodies to distant places or swallow them. Swallowed seeds sprout where they get deposited undigested.
Seeds need right amount of water, right temperature and right location inside soil for sprouting. Before sprouting, seeds must absorb water. The amount of water they need differs from species to species, some doing best when soaked and others needing only a slight film. On absorbing water, the seed swells. Water softens the seed coat, enabling the plant embryo inside to push out and activating enzymes so that growth process resumes. Oxygen is necessary too, for the rate of respiration increases greatly at the time of germination. Some seeds require light for germination while others will not sprout once they have been exposed to light. Sometimes seeds tend to sprout while on plants. This growth of seed while still attached to its parent is called viviparity. Some seeds remain alive for only a few days after they mature.
Humans normally consume sprouts but not grains or seeds as such. This is because grains or seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that keep them dormant until they are soaked and start to sprout. They also contain phytic acid. Both enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid make them indigestible. Both these components get neutralized when soaked in water and allowed to sprout. Sprouts are very healthy food as they contain lot of beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals and no fat at all.
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