Two types of dried lotus seeds can be found commercially; brown peel and white. The former is harvested when the seed head of the lotus is ripe or nearly ripe and the latter is harvested when the seed head is still fully green, but with almost fully developed seeds. White lotus seeds are de-shelled and de-membraned. The bitter tasting germ of the seed is also removed at the time of harvest using a hollow needle, though some may still remain in the seed due to production oversight. Brown peel lotus seeds are brown because the ripened seed has adhered to its membrane. These seeds are usually cracked in half in order to remove the germ since the seeds are hard enough to make the germs' removal by needle difficult.
Dried lotus seeds past their prime oxidize to a yellow brown colour. However, this is not necessarily an indicator of freshness since sellers of dried lotus seeds may choose to bleach their products with hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide, or other more toxic chemicals.
Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_seed
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