Monday, May 23, 2011

Reclaiming Our Heritage: Growing Heirloom Plants and Saving Seed

Heirloom beans I'm growing this year, clockwise from left: Hidatsa Shield Figure, Good Mother Stallard, Hutterite, and Tiger's Eye

The popularity of heirloom fruits and vegetables is much deserved; their flavor, variety, and beauty are clearly superior. But there are also other compelling reasons to preserve heirloom edibles, and they have serious implications for our future.

Organizations such as Seed Savers Exchange are dedicated to actively preserving the legacy of heirloom plants by operating a seed bank and a heritage farm for propagation. Most important, however, is their large grassroots membership of local gardeners and farmers that continue to grow and save seeds of heirloom edible fruits and vegetables:
"The genetic diversity of the world's food crops is eroding at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. The vegetables and fruits currently being lost are the result of thousands of years of adaptation and selection in diverse ecological niches around the world.
Each variety is genetically unique and has developed resistance to the diseases and pests with which it evolved. Plant breeders use the old varieties to breed resistance into modern crops that are constantly being attacked by rapidly evolving diseases and pests. Without these infusions of genetic diversity, food production is at risk from epidemics and infestations.”
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  1. Both beginning and experienced gardeners can easily learn how to save their own seeds, resulting in substantial annual savings and ever increasing self-sufficiency.

    1. I will add that some seeds are more challenging than others to grow, but it's lots of fun to do your own hands-on trials and to learn. Growing unique varieties are even more fun.
      best of luck with yours!