Seeds from Grocery Store Fruits and Vegetables

Can you grow seeds from the produce you get at the grocery store?

The short answer is yes.

If the answer were that simple, this would be the end of my blog post. Let's think about it for a minute. 

Yes, you can grow from your grocery store fruits and vegetables, but should you?

Oh, I hate to be a party pooper!

 

If you're expecting gardening success, growing a bountiful crop of fruits or vegetables with the free seeds from your purchased produce, the likelihood of reaching that goal is not so great. 

Three Problems with Seeds from Grocery Store Produce

Grocery store produce is intended to be eaten

It is harvested at the peak time to be used as food. It is not grown for seed production.

In some cases, the fruits are picked well before the seeds are mature enough to be grown. Consider tomatoes. The vast majority of tomatoes you find in the grocery store are picked when they're still green, and they're ripened using ethylene gas. This process is designed so that you will buy a beautiful red tomato in the store. The seeds within may not actually be mature enough to grow. 

Another example. To produce viable green bean seeds, you have to let the beans fully mature on the pod and dry out. You probably don't want to eat that mature a green bean. They're fibrous and tough by then and stores don't sell them at that stage. Stores sell the young, tender immature beans for your dinner table. 

Grocery store produce is usually a hybrid

What this means is that the offspring (the seeds) may not grow into the exact same type of fruit. You may have started out with a red tomato, but when you grow the seed, a pink tomato appears. I won't go into all the details about how this happens (maybe a future article?) but suffice to say you don't know what type of tomato the mother plant "had sex with."

Surprise!

It is true that not all fruits and vegetables hybridize in this way. You may very well get the variety you expect. 

Again, if you're growing for curiosity, it might be fun to see what you get! But you could be disappointed if you had your heart set on growing the same variety. 

You might be able to grow tropical fruit indoors.

Grocery store produce (probably) wasn't grown where you live

The variety of the produce may not do well in your part of the country. I've had this problem with garlic. I have planted the sprouted cloves of garlic from an old garlic head, expecting to dig up a big fat garlic heads 8 months later. Nope. The type of garlic at the store wasn't the type that grows well here in the midwest.

For the longest time, I thought I couldn't grow garlic at all. That wasn't the case at all - I just couldn't grow that kind of garlic. (Find more information on growing garlic in this article.

Exotic fruit, like those shown in the above photo, obviously doesn't grow locally in most of the United States - it grows in tropical parts of the world. You might be able to grow it from seed in the extreme southern parts of the continental United States or in Hawaii. You might also be able to grow it inside your home, but you will have to simulate a tropical environment. 

You would be more likely to succeed in this regard if you take the seeds from the produce you bought from a seller at your local farmer's market. 

The Bottom Line

If you want to maximize your chances of growing successfully, seeds from grocery store fruits and vegetables are not your best choice.

  • Excellent quality seed from a reputable provider will ensure the seed is fresh, highly likely to grow, and will produce the variety you expect. 
  • Increase the likelihood of success by planting fruit and vegetable varieties that thrive in your region. 

If you think you're saving money by getting "free seed," think about how much you are actually saving. It's really not that much money, and it's a poor quality product. 

But there's nothing wrong with having a little fun.

It's all about setting your expectations. The main risk is that it won't work out, and you'll think that you should have been able to grow that fruit or vegetable. Maybe you'll think you have a "black thumb," and that you just can't grow anything. It might stop you from ever trying again, which is sad. 

If you're experimenting or curious about it, sure, give it a try! It would be a learning experience, and who knows? Maybe you'll discover a terrific new fruit or vegetable variety. 

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