Tag Archives: Heirloom

Be Your Own Seed Sovereign

Semi-natural selection

For many of us, the end of the outdoor growing season is too quickly approaching. Plants, like any other living being, need some time to acclimate to a new environment. Seeds carry a sort of genetic memory from the parent plant, passing on adaptive information about climate, soil, and pests. Each year you can choose the healthiest, hardiest plants with the yummiest vegetables in your garden, and save their seeds for the next year.

Through your own careful selection, you will eventually end up with your own quasi-heirloom seeds. Quasi- because seeds from the same parent plant have to be continually produced for about 50 years in order to be considered officially heirloom.  They’ll be specifically adapted to the growing conditions in your garden, and even especially suited to your own taste preferences (in time).

corn-823884_640You can also experiment with cross-pollination and create something unique. It would be fun and you’d be doing your part for biodiversity, so vital for a sustainable food supply, not to mention what it does for your dinner plate. You’ll save money, too, not having to buy seeds every year. You can trade with others in your region who have also saved their seeds, and try different varieties of vegetables for free.

Another significant advantage in being the one who decides which qualities to encourage in your garden is that you’re no longer subject to the seeds that big agra has chosen for shipping quality and longer storage. You can select for flavor and ease of care. It’s personally empowering and satisfying, and it’s not difficult or overly time-consuming. Learn more about Food & Seed Sovereignty. Most importantly – you’ll be GMO-free.

Tips

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Beginner’s guide to seed-saving

The complete guide, vegetable seed saving video

Seed storage (with printable version)

Tutorial including a glossary of terms you should know and a breakdown of which seeds to try for the beginner, experienced and expert.

Another tutorial, with great descriptions for specific vegetables from another beginner seed-saver.

And let’s not forget, a ton of seeds are edible! Take advantage of that, too. They’re very healthy. Here’s a list of edible seeds.

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Safe Seeds

Make sure your garden is GMO-free

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You might think that if you’re growing veggies in your own garden at home that means you’re not in danger of using GM seeds or supporting their corporate parents via profit-margins. Unfortunately, if we dig a little deeper, we find out that it’s not quite so simple. Companies like Monsanto are interested in profit, which means they aren’t just selling GM seeds. They want to control as much of the market as possible, so they also gain your unwitting support by selling standard seeds.

We use the expression garden-variety to mean bland, boring, average. Heirloom crops are anything but. They’ve been naturally honed over generations to produce plants that are ideally suited to their native environments, that have the most exciting flavors and, frankly, they look pretty cool.

One of the first things you notice about heirloom crops, before you even have a chance to taste them, is their incredible variety and vibrancy. They’re exciting, they dress up your garden and your plate, but they’re important for a very different reason:

Science

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You can tell what nutrients are in fruits and vegetables based on their color. That’s why it’s important to ‘taste the rainbow’ (not the sugar-filled one). Eating a large variety of different-colored fruits and veggies is a great way to ensure that you and your family are getting the nutrition you need. Here’s a basic guide to see which colors indicate which nutrients, and what they do for your body.

Now tell me you’d rather eat one of those anemic tomatoes from the grocery store than that beautiful ‘Black from Tula’ in the image above. Want your kids to be more into veggies? Go heirloom, and make sure they participate in the growing process, too. If they feel like an important part of the process, they’ll be more interested in the results.

Even if you only have a window sill available, you can still take advantage of your space. Try out heirloom herbs. They are said to have more potent flavors than those grown in large-scale agriculture. It’ll do wonders for your pesto. You can also get flower seeds, so if you don’t have a vegetable patch, find some organic heirloom flowers to grow in your home.

PatatesNeed another reason to start growing heirloom crops? How about we start with biodiversity? Most of us have heard of Ireland’s potato famine. A large percentage of the potatoes being grown in Ireland at that time were of a single variety. The lack of genetic diversity in Ireland’s potatoes was one reason why the potato blight had such devastating effects there, but less severe effects in other European countries that were also affected by the disease. Heirloom seeds come from varieties that have been around for a long time and help increase resiliency. Strength in adversity through diversity. If drought or disease kill some, others will survive.

What’s in a seed?

A much more interesting question than “what’s in a name?” One of the things you find when you unpack a seed is self-sufficiency. If you want to decrease your dependence on food sources that you can’t trust and that have decidedly myopic policies, growing heirloom fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers is key. When you buy seeds from places like the Seed Saver’s Exchange, a non-profit organization by the way, you’re not investing in a greedy corporation, you’re investing in a group of people with a measurable degree of moral fortitude. You’re investing in sustainability. You’re investing in yourself and your family.

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