Monday, April 26, 2010

Kitchen Gardener | Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom seeds are a great way to add a personal touch to your garden. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which means that they produce the same plants year after year, if the seeds are harvested and reused. The seed varieties are almost always at least 50 years old and generally have some historical or cultural story that accompanies them.
Most gardeners who choose to grow heirloom vegetables do so in order to expand the availability of crops which are no longer grown on a large scale. More commonly found today, hybrid seeds and plants are the result of genetic manipulation which takes the best features of several different plants and combines them to form a new variety. Hybrids are usually higher-yielding, as well as disease- and drought-tolerant.
Most common to gardeners are heirloom tomatoes. There are literally thousands of heirloom tomato seed varieties found throughout the world. You can grow black tomatoes, orange tomatoes, purple tomatoes, and even multi-colored tomatoes. Some examples of heirloom tomatoes are the Japanese Black Truffle, the Black Krim Tomato, the Cherokee Purple, and the Green Zebra tomato.
Other vegetables, including eggplant, watermelon, and some peppers have heirloom seed varieties available to the public. The Moon and Stars watermelon has markings that resemble the night sky on its rind, while the Rosa Bianca has a beautiful light purple coloration.
Heirloom vegetables are prized not only for their historical value, but their taste and appearance as well. Heirloom varieties are usually the cream of the crop for their taste. The seeds have been passed from generation to generation for a reason.
Some heirloom varieties are quite rare. Many older flower varieties are hard to find and may be flowers you have never seen. Adding these to your landscape create interest and great conversation pieces. Baby’s breath, delphinium, and foxglove are all available in heirloom seed varieties. Their inclusion in your garden will give it a very nostalgic feel.
Seeds are generally less expensive than full grown plants. Vegetable and flower seeds can be as inexpensive as just a few dollars and once the plants are grown, you can generally harvest the seeds and use those the following year.
Many online retailers offer both heirloom flower and vegetable seeds; offers a very comprehensive selection. There are even online retailers whose sites are devoted entirely to heirloom tomato seeds, including and
You may even be able to find some varieties of heirloom seeds at your local garden supply store. More commonly found in specialty garden supply stores, heirloom plants tend to be more expensive and sometimes harder to care for than their genetically altered hybrid kinfolk.
While hybrid seeds continue to be developed and dozens of new varieties are introduced every year, heirloom varieties have always been around. Think of heirloom seeds as the pure breeds of the gardening world, untainted by modern meddling. Heirloom seeds can even be handed down through the generations of your family, helping to keep alive varieties of flowers.

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