Onion seeds & lentils on floats in the Rose Parade?

January 1, 2022

If you are watching the Rose Parade today, you may be surprised (like I was) that there are so many mentions of onion seeds and lentils. If you have questions, I have some answers… some I had to search for, and others I knew.

Why are seeds used on parade floats?

This is a fairly simple answer…. seeds maintain their color, shape, etc so designers like using them to enable the construction crews to get some of the spaces done earlier. They also add great textures! And seeds fit the requirement that all of the decorations be from plants!

This video is low on production but does a great job of showing you how many different flowers and seeds a float may be pulling from. And as you see, the earliest applications are of seeds.

Where do you get onion seeds?

Onion seeds aren’t a very common thing to think about. I mean, we all know about poppy seeds being used on things and a lot of the foods we eat contain seeds (think tomatoes or watermelon unless they are seedless). However onion seeds aren’t something that we tend to be familiar with, that’s in part because you have to let onions keep growing past when you should harvest them to enjoy in recipes. So there are farmers who plant onions for us to eat (like Shay Myers who we interviewed) and farmers who plant specifically for seed, maybe some who do both!

I’ve had the chance to see onion seed production and I had no idea how pretty onions could be or that they flowered. I mean, we are always focused on the bulb that we want to eat! But check these photos out of onion seeds growing.

Onion plant beginning to flower

The plant starts to produce the flowers with a thin protective layer and then the flower petals begin to push through it.

You can see above that some of the flowers are opening. Every flower needs to be pollinated to ultimately produce seeds. It can be bees, flies, etc that help with the pollination.

onion seed head

These flowers are all pollinated. The small, black seeds are inside the flowers, to get them out, you simply shake them. Farmers need seeds that are certain to emerge so seed growers put the onion seeds in warehouses and monitor temperature and humidity after cutting the seed head from the rest of the plant.

Sometimes gardeners have a dedicated area of their garden where they let the plant go to seed as shown in the University of Wisconsin photo above. This video on onion seeds on YouTube walks through the whole process of growing onion seeds, but I’ve cued it to the harvesting part. The seeds are so small, that you want to be sure you can capture them all.

And people sit there and painstakingly glue them into place to make irises on eyes or stripes on bees for the parade floats? Wild!

Lots of Colors of Lentils

The vibrant oranges on so many floats kept drawing eyes, and time and time again, the announcers mentioned lentils. Lentils are often overlooked in lots of ways and the diversity of colors is one. I mean check out just a small selection of colors here.

colorful lentils

That orange isn’t the typical lentil used in daal or other lentil soups. Shauna Farver talked with us about the awesomeness that is lentils. The nutrition lentils bring is amazing too but that doesn’t really come into play for parade floats.

Lingering Questions

The thing I wonder, is who contracts for all of those onion seeds? Are they seeds that didn’t meet the farmer quality demands for emergence or something? Are they grown specifically for ornamental uses?

If you have the answers, PLEASE get in touch!

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