Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Choose Heirloom Seeds?

Heirloom seeds produce vegetable varieties that have been around for 50 years or more. These are the vegetables your grandmother grew. These are the vegetables that were around before the food pyramid, before the Department of Agriculture, before the huge agrobusinesses that create most of the "food" on store shelves today ... Annie's Heirloom Seed Catalog .

Like most of you, I spent the last couple of months perusing the seed catalogs piled high on my coffee table. You will agree it is the perfect way to spend a cold, snowy winter's afternoon, just dreaming of the perfect kitchen garden. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't buy heirloom seeds as a rule, although I always choose reputable companies that sell organic products. Last year, I contributed to an article in my local newspaper about what to consider when choosing a seed company. A fellow  master gardener, Lisa, also contributed to the article. She said she ordered from Annie's Heirloom Seed Catalog. I didn't think too much about it at the time, but rereading the article today, I decided to learn more about heirloom plants.

Why Choose Heirlooms?

(The italics are from Annie's Heirloom Seed Catalog .)

1. Heirlooms are tough. Many heirloom varieties have been around for centuries, and over the years they've seen diseases come and go. Built-in to their genetic code is the ability to fight off some of these diseases.  
This is the number one reason that sold me on heirlooms. I need some innate toughness in my plants following a less than perfect couple of years in my vegetable garden. I garden organically, with no chemicals, so it is important that I have disease-resistant plants.

I usually only share the successes.

2. Vegetables grown from heirloom seeds are more nutritious than store-bought vegetables. One reason is because they are grown in nutrient-rich soil, and not bred just to look pretty. Heirlooms thrive in nutrient-rich soil, and they pack all of that goodness into every bite. This supports my belief in the importance of first growing great soil.

I add a deep layer of compost to my beds in early spring.

3.  Heirlooms support American farmers. They need our support!

4. Heirloom are open-pollinated. That means if you harvest seeds from your heirlooms and plant them again, you'll get the same great stuff in the next generation. I don't collect and keep seeds usually, because the hybrids I've purchased in the past are unlikely to reproduce a similar plant.

Native flowers in the kitchen garden attract pollinators.

5. Annie assures us that heirlooms taste fantastic!

If only I could get them to eat their vegetables!

Today, I placed an order for organic heirloom seeds and can't wait for them to arrive. I know many of you are way ahead of me, having used heirloom seeds for years, and I would appreciate any hints, advice, or experiences you would like to share. I will keep you updated on my new venture.

My potting shed is ready. And so am I.
Happy dreams of spring!

Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. I often select heirloom seeds or plants for their hardiness, but I did not know they were more nutritious. Great news...thanks, Pam!

  2. Very sound advice there. Hopefully many more people will wise up to the threat to our seed supplies and buy, grow and save seeds from open pollinated and heirloom varieties. So looking forward to getting going again when it all dries a bit here. Ireland had a wet Winter.

  3. Excellent post. There are many good reasons for choosing heirloom seeds and you've certainly highlighted some of the most important.

  4. I love heirloom seeds and I feel they are usually a sure bet for germination. I always think if gardeners were able to get these seeds to germinate without the resources I have available (heating pads, lights), then there is no reason I can't get them to grow! I find heirloom seeds and seedlings to be strong and vigorous. But that doesn't mean new hybrids are excluded. I hopelessly want to grow everything!

  5. Lovely post, Pam. Especially love the photo of your 'kitchen garden.'

    Trying to get back into blogging but have forgotten everything, including how to post pictures. I'll have to relearn everything.

    Spring is coming!


  6. Hello Pam, I haven't been commenting on your posts for a long time but I do read it and it is on by blog list. I wish I had a potting shed like that. I really miss space like that. I am looking forward on seeing how you garden grows... it is really beautiful.

  7. still guilty of not growing our own, but we do try to buy organic and support farmers who make the effort on behalf of us all.

  8. All good reasons Pam, but I always like them for taste and texture. Something was lost in hybridization.

  9. What a lovely garden. I like all your pictures! The kids are adorable. I've been trying to eat more fresh vegetables. I hope one day to be able to grow my own. Thank you for your sweet comments on my blog. :)

  10. Good advice Pam and I love your native kitchen garden and potting shed. Soon it will be warm enough outside to plant those vegetables. I have a feeling you will really like those heirloom seeds.

  11. Thank you for displaying my goodwill seeds button, Pam. Your support means a lot. For some reason is it not clicking through-perhaps you could reload? I have just spent 5 happy hours at our local seed exchange. Lots of heritage seeds locally grown and saved. I also went to the workshop on building good soil. I can't wait to get out into the garden.

  12. I hope the button works now, Susan. P. x

  13. Thanks for highlighting this issue. You wrote that vegetables grown from heirloom seeds are more nutritious than store-bought vegetables. But are vegetables grown from heirloom seeds in your kitchen garden more nutritious than vegetables grown at home in the same soil from ordinary seeds? Would be interesting to know if there was any difference.

    Over here in Britain, heritage seeds often means unusual things long forgotten, like purple and yellow carrots and beetroots that are white inside.

  14. You make a good point, Helene. I am sure home-grown is more nutritious than store-bought if the soil is good. But in my research of heirloom seeds I found that a lot of the breeding programs for modern hybrids have sacrificed taste and nutrition in order to make a better looking vegetable.
    When I ordered my seeds I didn't pick any of the weird 'forgotten' ones that you mention, but maybe I'll try some eventually. Let's see how this year works out.
    Thanks for your comment. P. x

  15. Heirloom varieties often have weird and wonderful names too, I'd love to know how some of them came by them. I don't grow heirloom varieties as a rule, but some often pop in to my seed stash.

  16. Always difficult to get the kids eating vegetables, but wow, that is quite some cauliflower.

  17. I to love to grow heirloom, it's lovely to think they have been around for ever,but I will try out new varieties as well.I so like this time of year it is so exciting to see everything emerging

  18. Dear Pam, your kitchen garden and raised beds look amazing. I wish I had enough room to grow mine in the garden. I love my allotment, but it would be so nice to have it so close to the house.

    M xxxxxx

  19. Still not recognising a single post. I think I may have never received a single notification. I read so many blogs I just never noticed. I cannot believe what I've been missing!!!!

    I love your potting shed.