What kind of seed is this?
December 29, 2014 7:28 PM   Subscribe

These seeds were in a package of lentils, but what are they? The lentils package looked like from India, but said, "product of Canada." I know we grow a lot of lentils, so I assume these were grown here. What are the seeds? I'm a gardener, and I've never seen these before.
posted by Listener to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't quite tell if they have the distinctive wedge shape, but maybe a mallow?
posted by contraption at 11:24 PM on December 29, 2014

Grow some in a pot and see what comes up. Just don't put the pot anywhere you'll forget about it.

Judging by the little spikes along the edges of some of them, which look like the kind of thing that would help these seeds get transported via animal fur, they're probably something you don't particularly want invading your garden the way they've clearly invaded the lentil crop.
posted by flabdablet at 2:35 AM on December 30, 2014

Best answer: Those are really strange looking! I thought that mallow seeds are circles not half-moons, but I'm not sure. It's a better guess than I have, which is nothing! Mallow used to be a problem with lentil production in Saskatchewan (I am not an experienced lentil grower however). But whatever they are, it's weird that there would be so many of them in the same package. I wonder if they could be dockage introduced along the supply chain? Here's how it works:
Canadian lentils are exported in bulk to India, where they are packaged and retailed. Crazily enough, sometimes the packaged lentils found in Canadian grocery stores are products of Egypt or Turkey while the Canadian lentils are sold in Turkey and India and Egypt. (Has to do with the bidding processes and the ability of the processors and suppliers to source the correct quantity, grade, and meet the delivery specifications).
Before they are shipped, the Canadian lentils are screened and cleaned to remove weed seeds, broken and split seeds, and other debris, which is called dockage. However, the amount of allowable dockage for each class and grade of grain is federally legislated, and as such grain vendors have the right to reintroduce dockage up to the allowable amount before loading it on to container ships and sending it off to its destination. India would probably also have its own legislation regarding dockage. So these mystery seeds could conceivably be dockage reintroduced at some point in the supply chain, in Canada or India.
Sorry I can't be of more help as to what the weed actually is but just wanted to give you an idea of how it got there.
posted by bluebelle at 9:11 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I realized these were seed casings, so I cracked some open an took an updated photo.

I also went through everything in the UBC Botanical Garden seed gallery, and there are lots of characterless little blobs like the interior seeds, but nothing showing the casing.
posted by Listener at 10:56 PM on December 30, 2014

I used to pull these out of socks all the time but for the life of me I never figured out what plant it was that made them. I think they might have been processed or something making the burrs a little flatter than normal.

It could be these tho? Chinese forget me not. Not a weed but maybe grown in an adjacent field.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:35 AM on December 31, 2014

Best answer: In another building on our farm I've got a binder full of different weed seed samples -- an inheritance from the old farmer who used to do a lot of seed cleaning here. I might not get over there tonight, but I'll try to grab the binder tomorrow and have a look through it. I'll post back here if I find anything.
It's a weed seed mystery!
posted by bluebelle at 5:55 PM on January 1, 2015

It must be round leaf mallow, because the only other kind of seeds that I have in my seed library that look like that are seeds from the rubus or bramble family. But I have absolutely no idea how you'd end up with bramble seeds in lentil production on the prairies; mallow makes a lot more sense. The weed control guide for Saskatchewan lists one or two herbicides that would control mallow in lentils, but there is nothing in the Sask literature that I can find that discusses any method of controlling bramble in lentil.
But maybe fiercekitten's sock seeds are bramble seeds?
posted by bluebelle at 8:18 PM on January 1, 2015

Mallow aren't invasive where I live, so I don't think it's that. But it is a really common plant in Canada so maybe. It could also be a seed for something in India that was processed before the lentils.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:31 PM on January 1, 2015

Mallow is definitely an invasive (they'd overtake my yard within 2 or 3 years if I didn't keep pulling them) but with the new picture I'm starting to doubt that's what these are. Mallow seeds are semicircular in profile and triangular in cross section like a wedge cut from a wheel of cheese, while these seem like they might be flatter. I also don't think mallow seeds can be removed from the casing like that, rather the seed itself is wedge-shaped.
posted by contraption at 11:48 AM on January 2, 2015

Response by poster: The sprouts are ready to be planted. The seeds sprouted very quickly, 100%, even the one I mangled by pulling on the wet seed casing. I'll update when I have some true leaves showing. Thanks, everyone.
posted by Listener at 4:04 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Got some updated pics showing one true leaf and some seed leaves. Sorry for the dupes - had troubles with the hosting website.
posted by Listener at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2015

Best answer: Ah, mystery solved just now, from another feeler I put out. It's called sainfoin, a legume forage crop, or Onobrychis. This species of it appears to be #5 in the Wikipedia image.
posted by Listener at 1:44 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the update. I figured it was some sort of legume by the shape but that's such a huge family of plants it's a crap shoot.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:25 PM on January 25, 2015

That's hilarious. I looked at your first true leaf pic and kept saying, looks like clover but it's not? Close but no cigar. Great sleuthing.
posted by bluebelle at 9:43 PM on January 25, 2015

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