Weebe�s world seeds

Should Collected Seed Be Stored in the Fridge or Freezer?

It is fall and you have just collected some seed from your garden. Should they be stored in the fridge or freezer? Both suggestions are quite common for storing seed, but the true answer will surprise you.

In this post I will have a closer look at storing seeds from your garden.

Should Collected Seed Be Stored in the Fridge or Freezer?

Fridge or Freezer for Storing Seeds?

The truth of the matter is that neither option is correct.

To understand this better we need to understand a bit more about seeds and how they develop.

Orthodox and Recalcitrant Seeds

Seeds have been classified into two general groups; Orthodox and Recalcitrant (non-orthodox).

The first group, orthodox seeds, probably got their name because these seeds behave very much like the seeds that have been collected and stored for thousands of years. After collecting they can be dried and stored for a long time. This group makes up 80% of all seeds.

The second group of seeds were researched more recently and became known as recalcitrant (having an obstinately uncooperative attitude). In the early days these seeds seemed impossible to germinate, but now we know that they die when they dry out or are stored too cold.

Your Home is Not a Seed Bank

Seed banks are set up to store orthodox seeds. The seeds are dried so that the moisture content is below 10% and for some species as low as 5%. Once they are this dry they can be safely frozen for a very long time.

Gardeners have learned about these storage methods and think it is best to mimic them. They collect seed and then place it in the freezer. If it is good enough for a seed bank it should be good for gardeners, but they forget one important step – drying the seed.

Freezing seed with a moisture content higher than 10% can kill the seed as ice crystals form.

Homeowners don’t have an easy way to measure moisture content and therefore they should not be freezing seed.

When is Seed Mature?

Almost everything you read about gardening will tell you that when the seed pod gets brown and dry, it is mature and the seed is ready for harvesting. I even tell gardeners this in seminars and in my videos. The concept is easy to understand and works well for the general public.

But seed maturation is more complex than this. Many orthodox seeds continue their maturing process after the seed is black and released from the mother plant. In some cases germinability increases only after the drying process starts.

Seed from chili peppers (Capsicum annuum) had the highest rate of germination when the seeds were left in picked fruit for another 14 days after harvest. This was true for green , yellow and red fruit, with higher germination from red ripe fruit, clearly showing that for this seed, maturation was still taking place after harvest. (Note: the 14 days was an arbitrary date for testing and does not reflect the time period that produced maximum germinability.)

Gabriela Costea, from BotanyCa puts it this way ” It is the natural way, if you think about it – fruits/seeds mature, fall on the ground throughout the summer and early fall. They will only experience cold gradually from late fall to winter. ”

Orthodox seed can germinate before it looks mature. Soybean and corn can germinate 20 days and 50 days, prior to full maturity, but the resulting seedlings are smaller and weaker than seedlings grown from more mature seed.

When you place freshly collected seed in the fridge, some of the chemical processes that are still taking place inside the seed, suddenly stop. The maturation process is halted, and you have just stored seed that is not fully mature.

For this reason, it is not a good idea to store your seed in the fridge. Let it sit at room temperature and continue its maturation process. By late winter or spring it will be ready to germinate.

Does Seed Get Old at Room Temperature?

Some of you may be concerned that seed sitting around at room temperature will get old and that germination rates will drop. After all, is this not the reason why seed banks store at low temperatures?

To understand this you have to consider the time horizon involved.

For most gardeners, you are storing the seed for 6 months or less. During that time period, orthodox seeds do not get old.

Seed banks are trying to store seeds for centuries. For such long term storage, cold temperatures are important.

Store in Paper

Orthodox seeds continue to lose moisture as they mature. It is important to let this moisture escape, or else the seed can get moldy. For this reason they should not be stored in closed plastic bags. Some form of paper is a much better option.

What About Recalcitrant Seeds?

Recalcitrant seeds need to be treated differently. These seeds die if the moisture levels get below 30%. Because of this high moisture content they can’t be frozen. Most of these seeds can be stored at 0 °C, but some tropical seeds are damaged even below 15 °C.

Plastic bags containing a bit of moistened vermiculite works well.

Even with this type of storage, these seeds tend to have a short life span of a few weeks to a couple of years. Even seed banks don’t have an easy way to store them long term.

When are Recalcitrant Seeds Mature?

The comments I made above about maturity are a bit simplified. In reality maturity can be defined different ways. One way to define it is to consider maturity as being the point where the seed can germinate.

Recalcitrant seeds tend to reach germinability sooner than orthodox seeds.

When the Norway maple (Acer platanoides), an orthodox seed, is compared to the sycamore (A. pseudoplatanus), a recalcitrant, researchers found that the sycamore reached germinability 10 weeks before physiological maturity (seeds look ripe). The Norway maple reached germinability 4 weeks before physiological maturity.

Many recalcitrant seeds germinate better when the seed is collected in the green stage, rather than the normal brown/black stage. By the time these seeds ‘look mature’, they are already losing viability and are getting old.

Which Storage Method Should You Use?

The take home message here is that there is no “best seed storage method” as suggested by most gardening sources. At a minimum you first need to determine which type of seed you are dealing with; orthodox or recalcitrant. To complicate the matter there is also a third category (sub-orthodox) which is half way between these two extremes.

How do you determine which type of seed you have? Unfortunately that is not easy. I have not found any good lists, but Bill Cullina, of the New England Wild Flower Society has some plants listed and uses the term ‘hydrophilic’ instead of recalcitrant. BotanyCa also does a good job of identifying seeds that need moist packaging and Genesis Nursery, Inc. also has a list. If you can’t find your plant on a list, here are some general rules you can follow:

  • 80% of all seeds are orthodox.
  • Most vegetables are orthodox.
  • Many North American woodland plants are recalcitrant.
  • Some willows, poplars, elms, maples, oaks, hazels, walnuts, chestnuts, and hickories are recalcitrant.
  • Many tropical rainforest plants are recalcitrant.

If it is an orthodox seed and it will be germinated within the next year, store it in paper and room temperature. If your goal is to store the seed for many years, make sure they are very dry and have had enough time to mature (several months), and then store them in the fridge – not in the freezer.

Recalcitrant seed should be stored moist. Use a temperature that is similar to their native environment. For temperate seeds, store at outdoor temperatures, and gradually cool them down as winter approaches. Then store in the fridge. For tropical recalcitrant seed, store between 15 to 20 °C. In both cases it is best to plant as soon as possible for best germination. Consider collecting some seed in the green stage to see if germination improves.

There is huge variation in seeds and their growth behavior. It is always a good idea to research each seed and follow the advice given for it.

Weeble

/wee’b*l/ An egg-shaped plastic toy person with a weight in the bottom so that, if tipped over, they would right themselves and stand up again. They were popular in the UK during the 1970s and were famous for the slogan “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”, unlike some computers (pretty tenuous link with computing).

Link to this page:

Then the chap from the Guardian, suitably attired in Guardian manwear: casual checked shirt, cord jacket, thick trousers and shoes with a sole so thick that, like a Weeble , it was impossible for him to fall over.

I was there for the commercials, the origin stories of the breakfast cereals, the barrettes braided with ribbon, the Weeble Wobblesall the fetishized objects that seemed to come out of nowhere, blazing like comets onto my classmates’ bodies and into their conversation.

Passionate motorcyclist Jackie and her husband Adrian, known among the biking fraternity as Weeble , are also spreading the word about the campaign among the country’s bikers, many of whom she says have been bullied for most of their lives.

Your centre of gravity will have altered in such a way that you cannot be pushed over, like a Weeble . And your body is crying out for some cabbage or, perhaps, a satsuma.

And once again this season, once their superiority complex came crashing down, they wobbled like a Weeble . Whether they’ve recovered since losing at Brantingham Park is not yet clear.

“Saint Sebastian’s Head’ is the story of Weeble , who, after finding everything she wanted out of life, is forced to face a childhood she never understood, and the man who tried to destroy her life before it got started.

If all these examples are spoonerisms containing existent words, there is also another category of spoonerisms made up of non-existent words which can be explained as ‘phonological errors’, particularly produced in accelerated speech: the normal sentence “my money is running out” becomes “my runny is munning out”, “skip one stage” becomes “stip one skage” and “weak and feeble” “feak and weeble .” (2)

Weeble ‘s exploded head, can be read as a frightening evocation of the violence that can lie dormant in intimate relationships, that can rise up suddenly and blow them apart.

What Do Weevils Look Like: A Closer Look at the Pests in Your Pantry

There’s something so unsettling about opening a box of cereal or pasta, or scooping up a cup of flour or rice to find little bugs inside. These little pests are most likely weevils, a small black or reddish-brown insect with a snout.

Weevils are members of the Curculionoidea family, a type of beetle. There are around 97,000 species of weevils around the world. Many types of weevils destroy crops and stored grains in large bins, while others find their way inside your home, particularly your pantry, and make a home amongst your stored food.

If you’ve had the unpleasant surprise of finding these pantry pests in your food, welcome to the club. These pervasive pests are common all around the world. While weevils are a nuisance, they aren’t harmful to human health and are unlikely to carry infectious diseases.

Having weevils in your pantry is not a sign of uncleanliness—it’s likely from improperly stored food. (Don’t worry, we’re not judging!) And sometimes, weevils are already present in your food when you bring it home.

Read on to learn more about commonly found weevils.

Weevil size and shape

Weevils are small insects, typically around 0.25 inch (6 millimeters). They range in color from black to reddish-brown. Weevils are usually cylindrical or pear-shaped.

Since there are so many species of weevils and corresponding families, and subfamilies, there’s a wide range in shape and color. However, a distinguishing common characteristic is their pronounced snout and antennae, or ‘feelers.’ Some species have short and bent antennae, while others are long and straight.

Need help identifying pantry pests? Here are a few different websites you can check out:

Main types of pantry weevils

  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Grains (oatmeal, cereals, etc.)
  • Pasta
  • Corn
  • Dried beans and seeds
  • Dog food

Many people often refer to these insects as flour bugs or flour weevils, because they’re often found in flour bins, but they are actually one of the types of species listed below.

So what do weevils look like? Let’s take a closer look.

Granary weevil

A close-up look at the granary weevil.

Credit: Udo Schmidt / Flickr, Sitophilus granarius.

Perhaps the most common type of weevil you’ll have the displeasure of finding is the granary weevil (Sitophilus granarius) also known as the wheat weevil , grain weevil, or grain beetle. Granary weevils cause extensive damage to agricultural crops and are a farmer’s nightmare. They can also be pervasive pests when found in your pantry.

Granary weevils are around 0.08–0.12 inch (2–3 millimeters) long with a polished, reddish-brown color. They have an elongated snout that is about one-quarter the length of its entire body. Granary weevils, unlike its relatives the rice and maize weevils, cannot fly.

Adult females bite a hole in a single grain kernel where she lays an egg and seals it up. The egg then undergoes the larva and pupa stages until the young weevil bites its way out to emerge from the kernel. Females lay 50 to 200 white eggs during their lifespan. The eggs and larvae easily blend into grains making it nearly impossible to see.

Rice weevil

Up-close-and-personal with a rice weevil (Sitophilus oryza).

Credit: Udo Schmidt / Flickr, Sitophilus oryzae

The rice weevil (Sitophilus oryza) has the ability to fly allowing it to travel and spread more easily. It’s around 0.11–0.18 inch (3–4.6 millimetres) long. They have a dull reddish-brown to black color with four spots on its back that can be red or yellow. As the name suggests, rice weevils feed on rice grains.

Similar to the granary weevil, rice weevil eggs are also deposited inside a kernel of grain to emerge later as an adult. Females lay 300 to 400 eggs during their lifespan. Hot weather can speed up the development of eggs while cool weather can prolong it. On average it takes 26 days from egg to pupa stage.

Maize weevil

A maize weevil feasting.

Credit: USDA / Flickr, k3980-17

Just like the rice weevil, the maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais ) has fully developed wings enabling it to fly. You might find the maize weevil in your box of pasta, or cereal.

It ranges in size from 0.09–0.19 inch (2.3–4.9 millimeters). With a smaller snout than the granary weevil, it has a dull reddish-brown to black color. The thorax is pitted with a smooth thin strip running down its dorsal. While very similar to the rice weevil, the maize weevil is often slightly larger.

Like its other relatives, the maize weezil also chews a hole through a kernel of grain to lay an egg. The maize weevil has a slightly longer development period than the rice weevil taking at least 30 days to go from egg to pupa.

Bean weevil

A close look at a bean weevil.

Credit: Udo Schmidt / Flickr, Acanthoscelides obtectus

While called a “weevil” the bean weevil (Acanthoscelides obtectus) is actually classified under the beetle family Chrysomelidae. As such it doesn’t have the long snouts characteristic of other “true weevils.” It also has a tucked-under head. You might find these insects inside your pantry feasting on dried beans or seeds.

Ranging in size from 0.04–0.87 inch (1–22 millimetres), bean weevils are either dark brown or black with a distinct mottled pattern. The females lay eggs onto seeds. As the larvae develop, they bite into a seed and make sure to leave an exit for later.

An interesting trait of adult bean weevils is that they curl up and play dead when they’re disturbed.

How did weevils get in my pantry?

Some types of weevils make their way into your home through cracks in walls, doors, and windows when the weather gets too hot or dry outside. Others come home with you undetected as eggs, larvae or pupae hidden inside kernels of rice, grains or seeds.

Granary weevils in particular have become especially well adapted to making their homes inside large storage containers where they are packaged and shipped to grocery stores and brought home by unwitting hosts.

Want to swear off eating all forms of grains and seeds forever? While it’s disgusting to think that we’re unlikely eating weevil eggs, or larvae, it’s important to remember that most food products likely carry some insects. After all, it’s almost impossible to filter out all insects during harvesting, processing, packaging, and shipping.

Don’t worry, weevils don’t bite

While they’re definitely a nuisance, weevils don’t bite or sting humans, or household pets. They prefer to bite into your stored pantry goods, thank you very much.

Using heat or cold to kill weevils

If you’ve removed the adult weevils in your pantry and are still concerned with any eggs or larvae left behind, don’t bother trying to search in, say, a bucket of rice. They are so small and camouflaged so well. A better method would be to use heat or cold to kill the larvae.

Try freezing food for a minimum of four to seven days. Or, try placing grains in an oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes.