- Kids' Sprout Zone
The dry seeds you hold in your hand are asleep. To wake them up all you need to do is give them water or plant them in the ground at the right time of year. A seed that is alive but asleep is said to be dormant. Some times seeds can't be woken up the normal ways and people have to "break the dormancy" by freezing them or laying them out in the light, but the seeds we have sent you will wake up with just a soak in cool water.
After you soak some beans or lentils you can peel the tough outer coat off of a few just to look at them. The coat feels like leather and looks like plastic. It protected the seed from humidity and dirt while it slept. You can pull the seed apart into two halves that look just alike.
All bean-like seeds have two halves. They are called cotyledons. These cotyledons contain all the food that the seed needs to begin growing into a plant. And although they don't look like it yet, those two halves will become two leaves--the first two leaves on the young plant. But you will eat the sprout before the leaves come out, unless you want to grow some for longer to see what will happen.
When water is given to the seed amazing things start to happen. Scientists still don't really understand it all. A factory starts up in those cotyledons that changes the food that has been stored there when the seed was dormant into energy units called enzymes, which run everything that lives. The enzymes make the seeds a super nutritious food for people, birds, dogs, horses, cows, hamsters, mice, squirrels and all kinds of other creatures. We call them sprouts. Sprouts are very strong food. They have as much protein as meat and eggs, as much vitamin C as orange juice, as much vitamin A as carrots, just to name a few.
As your sprouts grow the cotyledons feed a stem that grows between them and if you let the sprouts grow a really long time a tiny leafy bud would start to grow out of the top of the stem--but you'll eat them before that happens. A root comes out of the other end of the stem. It will grow long and will become the first root of the plant when the seed begins to grow. If you had planted your dry seed in dirt and then watered it, you would never see that root because it would be burrowing straight down underground.
Most seeds have two cotyledons. Those seeds are called dicots. Dicot seeds are beans, lentils, peanuts, garbanzos, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, and just about everything you grow in a garden.
But---some types of seeds have just one cotyledon and they are called monocots. Monocots are wheat, corn, buckwheat, rye and all the other grass plants. You can tell a monocot plant in the ground because it sends up just one grasslike spear of green-- no leaves like the dicot seeds.
When you give a monocot seed water the factory is not found in the cotyledon. It is found in a special part of the seed known only to the grass family called the endosperm. The endosperm feeds the cotyledon while it is dormant, all winter long, getting it ready for the time when it will be planted and its dormancy will be broken. In monocots the cotyledon grows a stem and a root, just like in the dicot seeds, but without the endosperm it would die. The endosperm is what gives the yummy flavors we like in wheat, oats, corn, and all the other grains.
So seeds aren't really asleep. They are alive and moving in your hand, deep inside, mysterious. They only look silent to us--until we add water!
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