Heirloom seeds quite simply are seeds that have been, over generations, bred to withstand the soil conditions, climate and local diseases and conditions and to maximise their yield under local conditions. Some other great features of heirlooms are they tend to have better and more varied taste and increased nutrients.
Gathering seeds from the strongest and most productive plants year after year eventually leads to a seed nearly perfectly to its environment. Heirloom seeds are not used in today’s large, high production garden factories but are rather the seeds our ancestors grew on their home farms for personal consumption.
Whenever possible I choose heirloom seeds and will harvest my seeds at the end of the season if possible. Did you know that some seeds are illegal to keep the seeds from one year to the next? Never have that problem with heirloom seeds.
Some of my favorite heirloom varieties:
Rutabaga: Laurentian, American Purple Top
Turnip: Seven Top
Beets: Cylindria, Chiogga, Bulls Blood
Squash: Burgess Buttercup, Spaghetti, Table Queen Acorn
Swiss Chard: Bright Lights Rainbow
Pumpkin: Atlantic Giant (Grew up in Windsor NS), New England Pie, Sugar Pie
Seed collecting from year to year is the way our ancestors lived. Of course, they had more space, more time and usually more help. In today’s bustling world we tend to pay for convenience, and as with all things, seeds are just a click away. Some plants like beets, rutabaga and turnips require two full years to produce seeds so sometimes I opt for convenience.
Ordering your seeds should take place when it’s still nice and cold out, and stocks haven’t been depleted. If you wait too long, some of the more popular varieties may become hard to find.
Once you have your seeds, plant and grow them. At the end of the season, choose some of your most healthiest and productive plants and harvest their seeds. This will put you on the road to your own locally climatized heirloom seeds.