Vegetable seeds come in all types, one type that has been discussed more and more are called heirloom vegetable seeds, but many people don’t really know what that means…
Experts can agree that heirloom seeds are in general old, high quality, easy to grow, open-pollinated cultivars.
We are going to break down the different qualities below.
1 – The age of the seeds
There is many debate of the actual age of heirloom seeds, many say that a heirloom seed is a seed that was introduced before 1951. After 1951, modern plant breeders started to introduce hybrids from inbred lines. The age of the seeds are important because that shows the purity of the seed as well as the longevity.
2 – Open-pollination
The term open pollination means that specific seeds can be grown from the seeds and will come back as they say “true to type”. This means that the next generation of seeds that grow will be identical to the parent seed. To break down the process in an example, plant a certain brand of tomato, let the plant grow and mature, collect the seed and store it. Then in the following year, plant the seed and it will grow another identical tomato. This is the simple seed saving process and this is how heirloom seeds have come about.
Now, in comparison, hybrid plants are not known to reproduce identical plants from stored seeds, and rarely come back “true to type”. Hybrids normally have great qualities to eat the vegetable right there, but storing and reproducing is not one of their noteworthy qualities.
Interesting enough, the term “open pollination” is a bit misleading since many of the heirloom seeds do not practice open pollination to maintain the quality. They are normally isolated to prevent any unwanted crossings.
3 – Quality of the seed
One of the benefits of heirloom seeds Is that you generally know exactly what you are getting. For example if there is a tomato that has a great flavor, and you plant the heirloom seed of that tomato, you know exactly the flavor you are going to get after it matures. Many heirlooms have it all – taste great, look amazing and are easy to grow even for an inexperienced gardener. Some other heirloom seeds on the other hand may be better for an experience gardener due to some limitations the seeds may put on themselves to grow in certain conditions.
In summary, heirloom seeds are a great way to have natural, great tasting vegetables that you can count on for quality. These types of seeds are great if you plan on eating your crop, then saving the seeds and replanting again for next season. There are many different seed companies out there to purchase heirloom seeds, but the one that we found with the highest quality are the ones from Home and Garden America. They have a great package of 50 variety heirloom seeds that are organic, non-gmo, non-hybrid and can be found on Amazon.com. They also provide a book on how to grow and cultivate the seeds (very handy for a new gardener).