Saturday, April 24, 2010

Heirloom seeds

I said I would post every day. I have not. Plenty of reasons and I don't like any of them as excuses. So I'll just apologize and repent.

I will post every day now.

So today, I wanted to talk about heirloom seeds.

Heirloom seeds, contrary to what you might think based on their name, are not highly valuable items of great importance to your family, which are handed down from generation to generation. This is not to say that you cannot call a pumpkin seed that your grandmother dipped in shellac and glued to a lovely box an heirloom.

You can call whatever you want an 'heirloom.'

But heirloom seeds are a very specific thing. You've probably heard of organic seeds. These are seeds taken from organic-raised, probably non-hybrid or genetically engineered, plants. These organic seeds are then prepared and packaged in a process much like that for any other seed. Heirloom seeds are not just organic seeds.

Heirloom seeds are a special type of seed that more and more people are getting into. This type of seed produces a plant that  can essentially self-propagate. In other words, you can take an heirloom Black Cherry tomato fruit off the bush, remove a couple of seeds, allow them to dry, store them for the season, and then plant them the following season.

Have you tried to do this with regular seeds you buy from the box or grocery stores? Sometimes, this will work; you plant a pumpkin seed from last year's plant or a seed from your jack o' lantern. But usually, this won't work out. Your fruits will not grow well or they will not look the same or be the same.

This happens because most seeds are hybrid seeds that have been genetically engineered to produce a certain type of fruit. They are not engineered to self-propagate. So getting those seeds to grow and propagate the same, healthy strain is really more miss than hit. And what is more, the system that is in place for producing and buying these seeds is one of consumption that is ongoing. In other words, you will always have to buy new seeds next year.

Heirloom seeds hark back to more traditional, classic approaches to farming. They are more provident seeds, because you won't have to go back and buy more seeds next year as long as you remember to harvest and process the seeds at the end of the growing season.

Now, an important caveat here is that most people who use heirloom seeds are really into their gardening. They like to experiment with new types of plants, veggies and fruit. Thus, they keep the heirloom seed market going. On the other hand, it is entirely possible for a gardener to choose a given set of plants that she wants to grow for the rest of her life. She can plant those one year, then harvest her seeds and plant them again the following year. And so on. She will never have to buy seeds again.

This won't happen with regular store-bought seeds as well as many organic seeds.

The value of heirloom seeds becomes pretty apparent, doesn't it?

A final note to keep in mind is that heirloom seeds can be considered more natural and traditional. They have traits that have been around for ages. Given this, you will often find that heirloom seeds produce tastier fruit. The fruit is also just as lovely as you would expect from any other seeds.

If you want to check out some heirloom seeds and try them out in your garden, do a Google search and you will find plenty of options for outlets from which you can buy them.

And that's today's post. See you tomorrow.

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