In this article, we present a tool which allows the rapid and non-invasive detection and quantitative visualization of lipid in living seeds at a variety of stages using frequency-selected magnetic resonance imaging. The method provides quantitative lipid maps with a resolution close to the cellular level (in-plane 31 microm x 31 microm). The reliability of the method was demonstrated using two contrasting subjects: the barley grain (monocot, 2% oil, highly compartmentalized) and the soybean grain (dicot, 20% oil, economically important oilseed). Steep gradients in local oil storage were defined at the organ- and tissue-specific scales. These gradients were closely coordinated with tissue differentiation and seed maturation, as revealed by electron microscopy and biochemical and gene expression analysis. The method can be used to elucidate similar oil accumulation processes in different tissues/organs, as well as to follow the fate of storage lipids during deposition and subsequent mobilization.