But is it really heirloom?
Andrea Bellamy |


Ottawa Hortiphilia recently posted about large seed companies jumping on the heirloom seed bandwagon. It’s something I’ve also noticed recently: the Big Guns offering more and more supposedly-heirloom seeds in their catalogues. But how can you really be sure you’re buying heirloom seeds? And why should you care?

People choose heirloom varieties for a number of reasons. Of key concern for gardeners are the superior taste of heirloom vegetables, the ability to save seeds from heirloom plants, and the preservation of the diversity of the plant gene pool.

Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots has a great explanation of open-pollinated vs hybrid seeds, and why you should look for those two little initials (OP) on your seed packs.

And as to why you should pitch in to help preserve plant diversity? My doom-and-gloom response is that monoculture can lead to catastrophic crop failure. There are other reasons, of course. But I’m of Irish heritage and the Famine wasn’t that long ago.

The long and short of it is that the Big Guns see marketing potential in organic and heritage products. They may even stoop to creatively deceiving the customer into thinking he or she is buying heritage seeds. Or, they might just buy out the independent heritage seed suppliers, similar to what happened in the organic food industry. Scary thought.

What can we do? Buy from a trusted source. Seeds of Diversity Canada has a great resource list. In the US, there’s the Seed Savers Exchange. In the UK, visit Garden Organic. Buy, plant, save and share!

Photo via Seed Fest UK.

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