We are not master gardeners, but we have been gardening for the past several years and each year we learn more and more and have more and more success. It’s not easy to be a gardener when you don’t have a green thumb. However, we hope that our eagerness and desire outweigh our ability.
We preface this post with that thought because we are sharing something that we became aware of a few years ago and now we understand the importance in buying the right type of seeds.
First, there are 3 main kinds of vegetable garden seeds:
- Hybrid seeds – These are plants that have been bred and cross bred with other plants to create the “super plant” that is more vigorous (saving money for commercial farmers) and often will have the “best” qualities of the two parent plants. However, the problem with the “super plant” is that you cannot harvest your own seeds for future plantings that will be the same as the hybrids. The seeds that are produced during harvest from a hybrid plant will not have the same qualities, will not be as vigorous, and will often be useless.
- GMO or Genetically Modified plants and subsequent seeds – have been genetically altered or changed by using molecular genetic techniques such like a gene cloning and protein engineering. They are infused with pesticides that allow the plant from birth handle the natural elements. There is a lot of question about this form of crop producing, especially in corn; most all of the corn seeds you buy will be GMO seeds.
- Heirloom seeds – are the “original” seeds from a plant that is many years old and being passed down from plant to plant to plant. The subsequent food from the plant is generally the same (except for an outside form of pollination or an accidental cross-pollination) for years and does not contain modified ingredients or a hybrid plan. It is basically the “original” original.
Now that we have shared the 3 main types of seeds, let us explain why we buy heirloom seeds now:
- Taste reigns as king! Often times, the taste of the food produced from heirloom seeds surpass the tastes of any modified or cross-bred types of foods and often has the richest, purest taste which is as close to the original as possible.
- Preserves the original varieties. With many commercial farms leaning towards hybrid and/or GMO seeds for best vigorous crop production, the original food varieties are at risk of being lost! By planting, growing and harvesting heirloom, you aid in the preservation of the originals and creating more sustainable farming.
- You can harvest the seeds more successfully with a dramatically better chance of foods for the future because they are heirloom open-pollinated seeds. We don’t know about you, but we love the ability to harvest seeds and preserve them for continual ever-growing experience. Heirloom seeds provide the best and more guaranteed opportunity to be preserving foods for your future and the future of others. It also saves money to start with the original and then keep growing and growing from that original pack of heirloom seeds over the years.
- Better nutritional value in heirloom!?!? – There are some claims that the foods produce from heirloom seeds may in fact have more nutritional value. We are not experts in this area and have not conducted our own testing, so for this one, we will refer you to MotherEarthNews on this topic.
- A different, but beneficial crop for home gardeners. What this means is that because they are not cross-pollinated or genetically modified, they will grow closer to how they grow in nature. They will grow with less uniform and may provide intermittent harvesting – perfect for home gardeners. Other crops from the other seeds usually produce an “all-at-once” harvest, which commercial farmers want as it makes their job much easier. But as home gardeners, do we want all of our food at one time? Or a more intermittent opportunity for harvesting?
- Finally, one point that warms the heart is the heritage that heirloom seeds have. We have friends that plant corn seeds (heirloom – not hybrid or GMO) from corn that was from the 1800’s. They received seeds that have been passed down for years from this crop. What a cool legacy from just this one example!
As far as the cost goes, the initial investment is more as we find heirloom to cost more. But if you consider only having to buy seeds once, then you are set for LIFE if you harvest and preserve correctly. One way to make them cheaper is if you can get seeds from someone who already grows heirloom seeds, then your investment may be nothing and cheaper than buying hybrid seeds each year.
Along with passing a monetary inheritance to our children, we hope to pass seeds from the plants of their childhood too!
We will talk about how to harvest seeds in another post, we just wanted to explain these differences in this one!
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