The last few years, there has been a lot of talk about seed saving. What I am hearing most is that large chemical companies are buying up the seed companies, and getting rid of heirlooms. If this is true, we will have to purchase new seeds every year. Not a really big deal for a small producer like me. But what about farmers who plants thousands of seeds?
So let’s first explain the difference between and heirloom and a hybrid.
Heirloom-I would compare this to a purebred dog. A poodle bred to a poodle; with give you poodle puppies. Save some puppys from those litters to breed and you get (yep, you guessed it) poodles. This could continue for generations, so long as you find new strains of purebred (heirloom) poodles to breed to. An heirloom plant will produce seeds that will produce the some exact type of plant. So a seed that comes from an heirloom Brandywine tomato, will produce a plant that will produce heirloom Brandywine tomatoes.
Hybrid-I would compare this to a poodle dog that breeds with a cocker spaniel. The puppies will be the most adorable cock-a-poos that you ever saw. But save cock-a-poos and breed them together and you will get some that may look like poodles, or cocker spaniels or cock a poos. Some will be bigger, some may be smaller. Someone who did not know what their lineage was may not be able to identify the breed of pouch.
Some seed companies will intentionally breed two different heirloom plants to provide us with a “better” product. But, if you are like me and want to save the seeds; you have no way of knowing what your seed will produce. Your plant will probably look like one parent or the other, but not like the “improved breed”
But that is not the reason that I am a seed saver.
I live in a harsh climate. It is not always easy to keep plants happy here. It can be done if you know what to do. One of the things that I do; to ensure that my vegetables are happy and healthy here, is to start with heirloom seeds.
I plant them, then I take the very best specimens. The ones that did the very best, in my climate, in my growing conditions and in my soil. I allow them to go to seed and collect and save the seeds. I then plant those seeds again next year and take the best specimens. I am not changing anything. I am not hybridizing. I am not genetically modifying. I am however, ensuring that the strongest and most appropriate for MY garden, survive.
Birds do it, bees do it-even the silly weeds do it.
My goal is to get to the point that I only plant heirlooms-and plant all of my plants from seeds. As I get really good at this, I will then SHARE the seeds that I have saved with my local gardening friends, because if these plants excelled in my garden, then they should excel in their garden as well. Besides, the only way to truly save a seed is to plant it anyway. Then save it, then plant it again.