Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is an Heirloom Seed?

This is the BIG question!  I get asked this questions quite often and I don't think I talk about the WHAT and WHY heirloom seeds as much as I share about the unique varieties...Like Orange and PURPLE tomatoes!!!

For us, Heirloom Seeds are very important.  It is preserving natural history.  Did you know that at one time there were 288 Beet varieties available commercially?  Now there are 17!  How about Sweet Corn?  In 1903 there were 307 varieties and now there are 12 varieties available.  This is sad, scary and maddening all at the same time.  
The image above shows that we have lost 93% of seed varieties in 110 years.  They are gone!

If we have lost this many varieties in 110 years, what will happen in the next 50 and 100 years.  Will your grand-children and their children be eating Soilent Green?  

So back to the question...What is an heirloom seed?
I've decided to elaborate on my standard response.
Cherokee Purple Tomato
An heirloom seed has been saved and passed down from generation to generation. These seeds have been carefully cultivated and are considered a great value to the recipient. Some say an heirloom variety is 50 years old or more.  Some heirloom varieties have been passed down for over 100 years and others for over 400 years.

Hybrids and gmo varieties are not heirlooms.  These have been genetically "tweaked."  We call gmo varieties franken-seeds and they are not welcome in our house OR our garden.  
I have written about GMOs many times. 

Heirloom varieties are often called rare because they aren't "mainstream" and if you do find them in the store they're expensive!  
Atomic Red Carrot
 Heirloom seeds are not necessarily organic but most companies, like Mary's Heirloom Seeds, state that their seeds are organic and un-treated.  Why untreated?  Some companies use a chemical anti-bacterial to keep their seeds from growing mold.  Personally, I stay away from treated seeds.  I don't need added chemicals thank you very much!

Even if you don't have a "green thumb" it is important to preserve the integrity of our food and genetic biodiversity.  Plant an heirloom tomato and save a few seeds.  Plant heirloom lettuce or radishes and save the seeds.  What...You didn't know that radish and lettuce bloom and produce seeds?  More on that later!
French Breakfast Radish  (grown in the US, 1895)
Over the next few days I'll highlight a few more of my favorite heirloom varieties.  Plus, you can "Save some green on GREENS"
Check out our SPRING Newsletter!

Linking up at the HomeAcre Hop , LHITS  , Wildcrafting Wednesday and HERE


Anonymous said...

Very good post, Mary! And yes, that IS the question. What WILL our grandchildren, and their children, be eating?! I had no idea so many types of vegetables were gone, as in no longer on planet earth. God must just shake His head, and wonder why we continue to destroy what He has provided us with...

Jess said...

There is lots of good stuff in this post. I'm excited to be a new GFC follower.

mail4rosey said...

I agree, no need to add the chemicals. I enjoyed your post. :)

Unknown said...

New follower on Blog Lovin' I found you over on the Bloglovin' Blog Hop! Thanks for linking up! Love the blog (I'm starting my first garden this year. I can't wait to harvest!)

Unknown said...

Visiting with LMWL blog hop. I am already a follower. Do you think we are every going to get spring so we can plants seeds this year? We are supposed to get 6 inches of snow on Sunday. Crazy!!

Unknown said...

Hi stopping in from the blog hop, very informative I have never heard of an Heirloom seed. Thank you, I do garden and I am looking forward to getting started!

Terri said...

Love your blog; just started following you. Hope you'll visit me at

Unknown said...

Hi! I'm visiting from the Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop! Glad I found you, I'm your newest follower! I love heirloom seeds too, their rich history and the uniqueness they bring! I have five heirloom pumpkins and watermelons (each) that I am very excited about this year. I think the Moon & Stars watermelon and the Rouge Vif d'Etampes (Cinderella Pumpkin) are the two I am most excited about.

Glenda said...

Something I had not heard of but will share with my son when we are doing the gardening for his home school. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Unknown said...

We planted our first heirloom seeds last year-- tomatoes, peppers and radishes. Oh the difference in taste is beyond comprehension! The produce we got last year was so superior to anything we had ever planted before. Heirloom is the ONLY way to go in our book now!

Thanks for sharing on our Healthy Tuesdays Blog Hop!
Kerry from

Becca said...

Wow, I didn't know the variety of vegetables decreased like that! Sort of like our language, we're dumbing things down, sadly...

Black Fox Homestead said...

Great info. I didn’t know there were that many beet varieties. Those are some of my favorite things to grow. Thank you for linking this up to the HomeAcre Hop!

Hope to see you tomorrow morning at our new time:


With A Blast said...

It really is sad about the decreasing varieties of {especially} vegetables - I have to admit I did not know that and enjoyed your post immensely! Thank you for sharing this at our ALL MY BLOGGY FRIENDS Link party :-)

Kristine@thefoleyfam said...

I enjoyed your post!! Such awesome information! Thanks so much for sharing and linkin up to Sunday FUNday friend!

Kristine -The Foley Fam {unedited}

Lisa Lynn said...

Great info! Thanks for sharing your post on The Creative HomeAcre Hop! Happy Easter!

Hope you have a chance to link up again this week: