Give history a try with heirloom seeds

Recently I was asked about planting with heirloom seeds.

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Heirloom hyacinth beans are something I am trying this year to see how they perform.
John Zvirovski / The Jamestown Sun<br/><br/>
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Over the last couple of years, gardening in many forms has become more and more popular as people are liking the idea of being a little more self-sustaining. Not only do garden centers run out of product quickly, but the seeds in the stores and catalogs sell out fairly fast also. Planning ahead always comes in handy if there are specific things you want to obtain.

Recently I was asked about planting with heirloom seeds. Often times people are confused about what these seeds are and why they are different from many that you buy in the store. That is a very valid concern given all the seeds that are available to us in today’s world.

Heirloom seeds are simply seeds that have been true to their heritage for at least 50 years without alteration. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated via the wind, birds and insects instead of through artificial means or human interaction and are organic and non-GMO. Altered seeds such as GMO and hybrids tend to be sterile or not true to form when they produce new seed. Oftentimes the seed that is produced from these types regresses back to a different heritage in which they were created. A good example of this would be if you bought a hybrid lily that was white at the time of purchase. After a few years, you might notice this plant has divided or produced seed that is now creating lilies that are yellow or pink. The reason for this change is that the seed that is produced is regressing back to a parent plant in which the original hybrid was created.

Heirloom seeds cover all types of seeds that many of us plant such as vegetables, flowers, herbs, wildflowers and even trees and bushes. These types of seeds usually produce a vegetable with better flavor and in flowers some of the most intense colors and scents. Often, flowers lose their scent due to hybridization to get more flowers, larger flowers or more color varieties and mixes. As with all hybridization, you give up one asset to obtain another. To me, nothing smells better than an original flower from heirloom seed. Heirloom seeds can also be stored up to 10 years in a cool, dark and dry environment unlike many other types of seeds.

One of the tomato plants that comes to mind right away is Brandywine. This produces large tomatoes with rich flavor and a meaty consistency. It has a nice red-purplish color and is unmatched by many other varieties. There is also Brandywine Pink which reflects itself in the color but has the same intense flavor.


This year I planted an heirloom Hyacinth bean seed as the color of the flower just seems to be more intense. Since it is the first year, my guess is that the scent is going to be more noticeable also. I am excited to experience this one.

Heirloom seeds are sometimes available locally, but oftentimes if you are looking for a large variety, you are better off ordering from catalogs and companies that specialize in this type. Some of the catalogs you can order heirloom seeds from are Eden Brothers, Burpee Seeds, Mary’s Heirloom Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Peaceful Valley Seed and Garden Supply.

So when people ask me why I would choose an heirloom seed over any other out there, my response would be because of its history. Not only are there amazing stories that come along with each seed, but they have been around for decades, even centuries in some cases, and they are a tried-and-true seed that lasts for so many years. Many of these seeds have so many wonderful qualities and assets such as pest and disease resistance on top of performance and vigor.

Frequently I feel people have gluten intolerance, unexplained ailments and a variety of more severe allergies due to the fact that we alter so much when it comes to the things we grow. Going back to the basics may just scale back some of the issues we encounter today. I say it is worth a try to see what we think. If we are into saving seeds that keep giving us the same plants, heirloom seeds are the way to go!

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