Chances are you tend to worry about the levels of toxins in the fruits you eat more than whether they contain seeds or not. In fact, you might view seedlessness in fruits as a benefit. Seeds can be hard to chew, bitter in taste or accidentally swallowed. Despite these perceived advantages, seedlessness in fruits can also have a few negative side effects.
How Fruits Become Seedless
Fruits become seedless through a process known as parthenocarpy, which means “virgin fruit.” It is the process of producing fruits without fertilization. Parthenocarpy may occur naturally as a mutation, or be induced artificially. Methods used to induce parthenocarpy include artificial pollination with altered or dead pollen or by injecting fruit with synthetic chemicals.
Nutritional Outcome of Seedlessness
Seeds in some fruits can be rich sources of nutrients such as essential oils, vitamins and minerals. For instance, grape seeds contain phytoestrogens that can protect women against heart disease. Seeds are also good sources of fiber, which plays several roles in your body such as suppressing appetite, stabilizing blood glucose levels and increasing bowel activity. Fruits without small seeds cannot provide these benefits.
Benefits of Parthenocarpy and Seedlessness
Parthenocarpy is advantageous in conditions where pollination is poor — for instance, during freezing temperatures — which limits crop production. Also, it may be difficult for some fruits to pollinate or fertilize such as summer squash or tomatoes. In some cases, seedlessness can increase the texture and shelf life of fruits, for instance in the case of watermelon and eggplant, according to a study published in the journal “Nutrients” in 2009. Furthermore, seeds in some fruits, such as apples and apricots, can contain small amounts of toxins such as cyanide. These seeds can be dangerous in large amounts or when chewed.
Negative Effects of Parthenocarpy
Sometimes fruits produced through parthenocarpy can be misshapen, smaller and duller in appearance, according to a study published in the journal “Plant Physiology” in July 2007. Some species, such as cucumber, can also be softer in texture when produced through parthenocarpy. Also, in terms of crop production, some environmentalists are concerned that producing seedless crops decreases biodiversity, which reduces plant species’ resistance to disease. They also point out that transfer of genes from seedless crops may cause non-modified plants to become sterile or not produce seeds.
Daily Fruit Intake
The skin and pulp of fruits are also loaded with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as essential oils and phytochemicals. Fruit skin is also a good source of fiber. So even if you’re not consuming seeds, you’re still getting a host of nutrients. To boost your nutritional intake from fruits, eat many different types of fruits. Try to eat two to two and a half cups of fruits daily. It’s best to consume fruits in their raw form rather than as juices.
- ScienceDaily: Seedless Fruit
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Parthenocarpy
- “Nutrients”; Seedless Fruit Production by Hormonal Regulation of Fruit Set; Tiziana Pandolfini; Nov 2009
- “Plant Physiology”; RNA Interference Silencing of Chalcone Synthase, the First Step in the Flavonoid Biosynthesis Pathway, Leads to Parthenocarpic Tomato Fruits; Elio G.W.M. Schijlen et al.; July 2007
- NC State University: Fruit Firmness and Quality of Parthenocarpic Versus Nonparthenocarpic Pickling Cucumber Cultivars