Nuts and Grains
What is the scientific distinct between nuts and grains?
The main distinction is not one of science but of agronomy. In general,
nuts grow on trees, and grains are members of the grass family and grow on
Having said that, peanuts do neither - they grow on a low bush and they are
actually formed in the grown, rather than on the branches above ground. They
are called nuts because, like most nuts , they have an edible kernel inside a
hard woody shell.
All grains are related and are members of the same family as all the grasses.
They usually grow at the top of a stalk which protrudes above the leaves of
the plant. This makes them easy to harvest, so it is easy to see how they came
to the attention of early men.
Both grains and nuts are seeds, and as such contain not only a significant
portion of protein in the 'germ' or genetic material of the seed, but usually
have a significant reserve of carbohydrates, fats and oils as food for the
prouting plant. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats make seeds a very significant
food source, so it is understandable that they have become the staple food in
almost every region of the world, whether it be wheat, millet, rice, barley
Nuts are far less abundant than most grains, but being larger they offer a
seasonal bonus, but are not in such quantities as to make a basis for the daily
meal each day.
Tennant Creek High School
The following page should be helpful:
Nut: One-seeded fruit with hard pericarp.
Grain (Caryopsis): One-seeded fruit; pericarp fused with seed coat.
Missouri Botanical Garden
c/o Harvard University Herbaria
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Update: June 2012