Garden

Why Heirloom Seeds Are The BEST!

Written by Charlotte Walker

For a gardener, dreaming about and planning your spring garden is one of the best parts of winter. We all know the early bird gets the best worms so ordering your seeds in January is a good bet if you don’t want to miss out. I delay placing my order out of indecisiveness, there is just so much choice and every year something that I order is back ordered …indefinitely. Don’t be like me, order your seeds promptly.

Why heirloom seeds?

For me, it’s like grocery shopping. I prefer, organic, chemical free food, not developed in a lab, preferably locally grown. I also like trying new things. This year we will be trying our hand at things like Valencia Peanuts, Yellow Mustard, Mouse Melon, Edible Ziar and Breadseed Poppy. There is just so much MORE available than what the grocery stores and big garden centers offer! Many small seed houses work hard to preserve the diversity of plant varieties by locating, growing and saving  rare, open-pollinated or heirloom seeds. Not only are they protecting us by preserving seeds as nature intended them to be, they are inviting us to join in the fight for food security.

 You can add to your own food security by growing your own food. The current low Canadian dollar is a harsh reminder of how vulnerable we all are. This, paired with the food shortages, volatile climate (the $7 cauliflower) and our heavy reliance on imports means food is getting a lot more expensive, with no end in sight.

Why are open pollinated and heirloom seeds important?

Open pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. This causes a greater amount of variation within plant populations, which allows plants to slowly adapt to local growing conditions and climate, year to year. In the face of dwindling agricultural biodiversity, saving heirloom and open pollinated seeds is essential.  It’s not just us homesteaders that are concerned about food security, the existence of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault speaks volumes!

When GMO became big business, it came with a price.  Seed saving under this model is often prohibited by law. Many of these seeds are patented and with big business comes big fat rules. Talk about selling your soul to the devil!  Farmers that get caught saving seeds become criminals. This model spits on thousands of years of history and tradition and nature. All of that care that our ancestors took to save and hand down seeds generation after generation would be at risk of being lost forever were it not for people continuing this tradition and fighting to keep biodiversity strong. If big business had their way, it would all be wiped out.

Seed saving with “hybrid” plants can be quite unreliable. When creating in a lab, you can make some pretty “weird” science happen, putting things together that would not go together naturally. Ultimately this has a downside. The plants you grow from the seeds collected from one hybrid fruit, can all be wildly different from one another.  Don’t ask me to explain how or why … I don’t do science all that well. If you want some real juice on this topic there are loads of resources online. Ultimately, It is advisable to buy hybrid seeds every year, which is great for business but not for the pocket book.

Nature provides seeds that adapt to our climate continuously, free of charge. It’s been tried and true for thousands of years. The bees love it. The birds love it. We should treasure Heirloom seeds.

Expand your culinary horizons

There are thousands of varieties of heirloom tomatoes alone. The varieties of veggies that I have never even seen or tasted before, is staggering.  If you grown food, and are mindful of the types of seeds you are purchasing, you will experience incredible, bright, burst in your mouth flavors.  You will be able to create and innovate, expand your culinary world, while contributing to food security, saving money and keeping a universal heritage that people from all cultures and corners of our plant have been sharing for centuries.

Where to get your seeds?

Small Farm Canada published an excellent list of seeds in their Nov/December print edition and you can also find a long list of Canadian seed suppliers here.  I buy most seeds from The Cottage Gardener, and Annapolis Seeds.  It is often best if you find a seed house that offers seeds for your region/province. This is not an absolute necessity but having seeds already adapted to your climate is a benefit. When ordering seeds it helps to know your plant hardiness zone.

 

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