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I have a crude understanding that planted seeds should be non-hybrid non-gmo open-pollinated in order for their offspring to be as good as the parents.

If I try to use organic produce from the grocery store to start different varieties of plants which of them would create quality offspring?

Any root vegetables like potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, beets?

Any vegetables that still have their roots intact like scallions or watercress?

Also what different seeds would work? Chia seeds? Flax seeds? Wheatgrass seeds? Other seeds?

For fruit, I assume that many fruits have sproutable seeds, but that few if any would grow a new generation as good as the parent? Is this correct?

Also my local market has tomatoes labels as "heirloom tomatoes". Are the seeds in these really "heirloom" and replantable or is this just a marketing gimmick?

By the way, I am not asking if it is a good idea. I am not planning on starting a garden this way, I am more interested from an educational perspective.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You're better off buying seeds from the rack in the front of the store.

  • Potatoes are often treated to prevent sprouting.
  • If you buy organic potatoes, they may sprout, but they may also be carrying diseases. Normally you'd want to buy certified disease-free "seed" potatoes.
  • Garlic might also be treated to prevent sprouting, but planting the cloves might work. You'd probably be better off to purchase a variety that is known to do well in your area.
  • Onions, carrots, and beets are all biennial. You'd have to store them overwinter, plant the root back in the ground in the spring, and harvest seed. If the vegetable you purchased was a hybrid (they probably are), then the seeds you'd get from this method will not be true to the parent.
  • I don't know about the seeds (flax, etc). If they haven't been heat-treated (e.g. to kill bugs), then you may be able to plant them. Again you may have the hybrid issue.
  • As far as "other" seeds, I might mention dry beans, again with the heat treatment and hybrid caveats.
  • Tree fruit (apples, pears, stone fruit, etc) are normally propagated vegetatively. The seed may be viable, and would grow into a tree, but it is unlikely to produce fruit that tastes like the parent (and, I've heard, is unlikely to be worth eating at all).
  • Vegetables that are really fruit (e.g. tomato) and are sold mature (e.g. pumpkin and other winter squash -- not zucchini and other summer squash), and are truly "heirloom" will probably contain seeds that will viably produce another generation. The issue you may run into here is that the vegetables were produced without paying attention to the things that are important for seed saving: roguing, maintaining genetic diversity, and avoiding cross-pollination. Some plants (squashes) cross very easily, so you may get odd results if your heirloom pumpkins were grown nearby some other squash family plant. Most producers selling at market will probably have a large enough population to maintain genetic diversity, but if you don't then the plants that you grow may be weak. Finally, the producers aren't roguing off-types, so your plants may have undesirable genetic variations.
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man, I must be doing something wrong, because I'm always forgetting about produce I buy and ending up with sprouts. Potatoes, garlic, ginger, onions, &c. –  dwightk Apr 16 '14 at 15:41

Here is a good infographic that describes using scraps to regrow onions, celery, ginger, garlic, mushroom, potatoes, and pineapple:


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I just put the seed in the ground and if they turn out too be really good i save the seed.I have store bought garlic i have been growing for 20 years.

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