The Case For Growing and Saving Heirloom Vegetables and Plants
Heirloom or heritage seeds in general are seeds that have been saved and grown year after year. Heirloom vegetables have a well deserved reputation for tasting better and producing more crops. Growers generally save the best tasting fruits from the best plants each year, resulting in better plants over time.
On a practical level, you will be saving money on seed each year. Saving seed from a plant you’ve grown will also help your variety do better in your climate and unique combination of growing conditions.
By growing and saving your seeds each year you are also helping to promote bio-diversity. What’s the big deal with bio-diversity? Growing different varieties of a single vegetable can help farmers get through tough times when one variety fails. If you are only growing one variety you run the risk of losing your entire crop. The most famous example of this would be the Irish Potato Famine.
Saving seed year after year can produce a tough plant that science just can’t buy (yet). Today research is being done on tomatoes that can withstand extreme cold and a very short growing season. Where did they get this amazing tomato plant? From seed saved by home gardeners in Siberia.
How can you grow melons in the dry, scalding hot desert? From seed saved by the Navajo Nation in the arid Western US.
Be a rebel. Growing heirlooms isn’t popular with everyone. The big seed companies will sell them (because you are demanding them.) But they can’t put a trademark on these seeds and if you save them for next year, they lose your money. From a business standpoint, many seed companies create hybrids simply to have a variety they own and you can only buy from them.
Here is an interesting piece about heirloom plants from my favorite seedsman J.L. Hudson…
About Heirloom Seeds
There has been a lot of attention in the press in recent years to ‘heirloom’ or ‘traditional’ varieties, yet many people are unclear as to just what these terms mean. Since I find no universally accepted definitions among seed-savers and preservation workers, here are the meanings of the terms as I use them:
Traditional Heirloom Varieties: Any variety developed more than 50 years ago. Includes many commercially developed and distributed varieties.
Heirloom Varieties: Any variety that owes its existence to its preservation by home gardeners or private individuals, rather than the seed trade. This includes old varieties whose origin is unknown which have been passed down from generation to generation, as well as old varieties developed by heirloom seed savers which at some point were dropped by the seed trade and would have been lost had they not been maintained by home gardeners.
Our thanks to J.L. Hudson, Seedsman for their gracious help with this information.