The Truth About Heirloom Seeds
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
You have no doubt seen, heard of, or purchased heirloom seeds at some point recently. In the last few years people have been moving away from genetically modified plants, and heirloom seeds have become a big business. They are typically very appealing due to the fact that are unique and often unlike any variety that people are used to. Heirloom seeds actually quite important when it comes to the homesteader, and the future of agriculture. However I do NOT mean the ones that you buy from a supplier.
There is a huge cloud of information regarding what exactly an heirloom seed is, and I am here to clear it all up for you!
Allow me to shed some light on the "what", "where", and "why" of these interesting seeds.
We will start with the "what". What is an heirloom seed? If you search this topic online you will most likely get answers like 'a seed from before 1951', or that 'the cultivar must be 100 years old', really all sorts of misinformation. The fact is, back when self sufficiency was the norm, everyone had heirloom seeds! Each family had their own special varieties of all sorts of plants, flowers, and vegetables. An heirloom seed is a seed that comes from a plant that has adapted to its specific conditions over several generations. I don't mean it necessarily comes from grandma's garden, however, and that leads me to the "where".
Where do heirloom seeds come from? The answer: everywhere! In any climate, any location, any farmer can create his very own species of plants! This is quite an incredible truth. One thing must be understood about plants first and foremost. Plants are living creatures. Like all living creatures they have the unconscious compulsion to survive by any means necessary. They exhibit what people have dubbed "adaptation" or "evolution" like all of the animals of the world, only plants do this at an accelerated rate.
So what happens is that when you plant, say a corn field, (from non-GMO seeds bought from a supplier) you may or may not have a successful crop. You may only get a few small ears, nothing like the picture on the seed packet!
The reason is because these seeds were probably collected in an environment very different from yours.
If you take the kernels from those small corn cobs, save them, and sow them the next year, you may find that you get slightly better results! When the plant was growing, it collected all sorts of data, about the water available, the weather patterns, the soil make up, etc. It will then use its stored data to create a more productive DNA for the next generation. Continue this process and after several years you will have a plant perfectly suited to your environment!
It is not uncommon for farmers to have experienced seeing totally different colors of flowers or fruit from the one originally planted. The plant will often change for many years until it settles at its perfect specimen. Then you are the proud founder of an heirloom plant that produces heirloom seeds! It is precisely this process that explains why if you buy heirloom seeds you may not even have germination. Because these seeds were meant for the very specific environment they had adapted to.
This leads me directly into the "why", which may be obvious to you by now.
Why should someone grow heirloom plants? As you now know, I do not mean the heirloom seeds from an online supplier. While you may have success growing these precious seeds- and there is no doubt lots of general good that comes from trading these seeds- I mean your very own special variety of rare plant. I'll give you three reasons why.
The biggest reason is because it makes your garden so much more productive! Simply put, heirloom seeds make the best plants you can grow in your environment. Biodiversity is the key to a sustainable future, and saving your own seeds year after year will increase biodiversity in plants, but also in the pollinators that visit them, the birds that eat the insects that arise, and so forth. Not to mention the money you will save from not purchasing seeds or plants, year after year.
The next reason why you should be growing heirloom plants, is because it is good for your soul! This reason may sound silly, but seeing a plant evolve before your very own eyes will teach you so much about nature. You will also know that you have the only type of this plant in existence!
The last reason hearkens back to the first two. You will have your very own sellable seeds and goods unlike anyone else! Now before you do, check your local laws, because believe it or not, this is actually illegal practice in some jurisdictions! Your neighbors and people at the local farmers market would be thrilled to learn of a specially adapted potato, or cabbage, or whatever! People these days are more curious than ever to try new varieties of anything, making your heirloom highly sought after!
It should now be much more clear to you what an heirloom seed actually is. It does not have to be a seed from your great grandpa's farm or someone else's, for that matter.
You can (and should) create your very own heirloom seeds. This is not only an exciting process, but one that is unequalled in importance for the new age of farming!
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