Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heirloom Seeds

I apologize for the long delay in blog entries. My personal life has been hectic to say the least. I have moved and am engaged to be married in the Spring. :) I may write about the language of flowers and other romantic themes soon, but today I'd like to talk about heirloom seeds for the Etsyearth Team.

Spring is coming and many people are starting to plan their gardens. One thing the responsible gardener should consider is the source and variety of seed they are buying. Many seed companies are trying to gain control over the world's seed supply, and thus, our food supply. They can and do patent hybrid seed varieties. Hybrid seeds usually do not germinate, or if they do, they will not grow true to the parent, thus necessitating the need to buy a new seed supply each year. Hybrid seeds are often genetically modified and grown with the use of chemicals. What you may want to look for is organically grown open pollinated seeds. Open pollinated means that it is pollinated by natural means such as bees and butterflies.
Heirloom seeds are by definition open pollinated. They are seeds that have been saved from year to year by backyard gardeners and traded with other gardeners. They are old cultivars that have been around for a while, generally at least 50 years, and have traits that gardeners found worth saving. Without this seed saving, we would have lost many varieties of seeds. Saving seeds helps ensure the genetic diversity of our crops. In my experience, heirloom seeds are better than hybrids in their attributes as well. Heirloom vegetables taste better and heirloom flowers smell better. It's important to grow a mix of vegetable and flowers because it attracts the necessary pollinators and using companion planting methods is a good organic method of pest control. There is also something inherently romantic about heirloom seeds. They have a history and older varieties often have folklore attached to them. Sweet William (Dianthus Barbatus), dating to at least 1760, stands for gallantry in the Victorian language of flowers and is often associated with lovestruck young men in English ballads. Heirloom tomatoes may have been saved by a particular family for generations before being "rediscovered" and made available to the public. By growing and saving heirloom seeds, you are helping to ensure genetic diversity and are saving a small part of agricultural history.