When growing food our thoughts should be to start out with seeds that have the potential for maximum nutritional content. Future generations depend on the actions that we take to create a food culture for the feature. This food culture needs environmentally clean, healthier food production with better flavor. Do you ever wonder why some children do not want to eat vegetables? Often the reason children don’t like the taste of vegetables is because something doesn’t taste right, when talking about conventional fruits and vegetables that are found in most supermarkets the children are correct.
Growing heirloom varieties is a great way to grow delicious tasting vegetables and help the genetic preservation of thousands of year old varieties of vegetables that are disappearing rapidly. We do not want to live in a world that only has a few varieties of crops with the potential of being taken out because of disease and pest problems, our current food production model is rapidly taking us in this direction.
Heirloom varieties give organic farming operations the ability to grow a crop that has more nutrition in the seed than most hybrids, healthier plants have a higher resistance to disease and insect infestation. Plants from heirloom seeds develop resistance and unique adaptations for the microclimate they are cultivated in reducing and even eliminating sprays for productive crops. Two years in a row we have worked with growers who have had heirloom plants last longer in the growing season than their hybrids because of disease resistance. When you save seeds, your saving high potential for productive crops that can survive adverse weather conditions.
Heirloom seed varieties are open pollinated seeds that can be saved and when replanted growers can expected it to be the same type of crop from which the seed was harvested from. These seeds can be passed on for future generations to cultivate, varieties are typically older than 50 years and can range from thousands of years old. When saving seeds that have been passed down it is very important to start with clean seeds grown from healthy crops, diseases such as blight can contaminate the seeds if not properly cleaned. Harvesting the seeds correctly depends on the type of crop grown and its stage of maturity. At our farms we save heirloom tomato seeds when the fruit is ripe enough for consumption. Saving seeds at the correct time will allow the seeds to properly develop, allowing the seed to germinate with maximum productive potential when its planted.
To avoid cross pollination it is recommend to give plants their own areas to lower the risk of cross pollination to stay on the safe side. Most tomato plants are self pollinated but other factors such as pollinators can contribute to cross pollination, but bees are good so its worth the roll on of the dice. Usually any cross pollination that does take place is minor and will just add character to the crop.
We are in control of the preservation of unique crop varieties, change can start by pairing with friends to each plant a few varieties of heirloom seeds and exchange seeds and ripe fruit with one another to continuously build a supply of healthy seeds. Eventually this practice could take the rolling effect like social media and create a supply of seeds for food security purposes, but we all need to bring something to the table. I have herd a wise man quote
“ We can count how many seeds are in an apple but we do not know how many apples this seed is capable of producing”.
We attract customers at our farm stand because of the unique varieties that we grow, they are varieties typically only found at farmers markets and roadside stand operations. Our customers are searching for the flavors that have been lost in their lifetime because of the changes in modern agriculture. I have been approached by a customer at the farmers market who told me “ I love tomatoes but in my lifetime the flavor of tomatoes vanished, these are the first tomatoes in 40 years that I have enjoyed that bring back memories as a child, you know what your doing!”. Those type of comments are things that I hear that make my job enjoyable 🙂 Save your seeds and pass them along!
We are planting heirloom seeds right now for our research trials in Kalamazoo, Michigan this summer. Pass along your heirloom seeds to a friend and start a tradition in your community. Growing vegetables with high quality and great flavor can be done in your organic farming operation. A good start on the quest to flavor is by using heirloom seeds. Good luck!