How can you tell if a seed is heirloom?

Traditional vegetables or seeds refer to any type of seed that has been cultivated for several years (since 1940 or earlier seems to be the general rule) and that has been passed down from gardener to gardener. There are four characteristics that qualify seeds as heirlooms. First of all, the plant must be open-pollinated. Open pollination means that the plant has not been cross-pollinated with another variety and is naturally pollinated by wind, bees, or other insects.

Open-pollinated seeds, on the other hand, will produce a “true plant”. The new plant is considered true because it is genetically the same as the parent plant from which the seeds come. The seeds extracted from the new plant will produce essentially the same plant the next year that this year's seeds were removed. When reading heirloom seed catalogs, you will often see stories about individual varieties, their approximate age, and how they were discovered.

It's essential to maintain the heirloom variety and let the next generation know the importance of traditional seeds.

Heirloom seeds

fell into disuse at some point, but have since returned to popularity partly because of their superior flavor and because no GMOs are produced, a somewhat controversial topic. All heirloom seeds are non-GMO (meaning genetically modified organisms, or plants whose DNA has been artificially changed, often with genes from unrelated species that they could not naturally cross with). If you save the seed of a hybrid and grow it, you will get one of the parents, not the plant that produced the seed.

If you get the heirloom seeds, you can guess how carefully they were cultivated to reach you as an inheritance seed. Gardeners often ask me if hybrid seeds are similar to transgenic seeds and, while they are a product of reproduction, they have not been genetically modified. Because relics are ancient, many of these seed varieties have interesting stories associated with them. Seed-saving techniques vary from vegetable to vegetable, but here are instructions for some of the most commonly kept heirloom varieties.

The heir seeds of this real and predictable population of plants are extracted and transmitted year after year. May Queen lettuce: There are many varieties of butterhead lettuce available from seed companies, but May Queen is an exceptional heirloom. Unlike relics that are open pollinated, saving the seeds of hybrids does not reliably produce plants true to type. To add a contemporary touch to your garden this spring, step back in time with heirloom seeds.

Erika Shipley
Erika Shipley

Subtly charming beer nerd. Extreme internet specialist. Devoted travel junkie. Proud coffee maven. Friendly problem solver.