Let’s start with . . . what exactly is a Heirloom seed?
Heirloom seeds come from plants that are really old like me, even older really. I was born in 1956, most or all heirloom seeds come from plants that were being actively grown prior to 1951. Why 1951? What’s so significant about that? I find this interesting because around that time lots of things were going on in the world. World War II had just ended, this thing called television was just making it’s appearance in the world. And at or about the same time scientists had figured out a way through cross pollination to create new varieties of plants that were supposed to be superior to the plants that our grandparents had grown and loved for years. These new introductions were called Hybrids.
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Are Hybrid Seeds Better?
At the time they were said to be better, many gardeners considered them to be better because the fruit and vegetables had better color, better taste, the plants produced more fruit and vegetables. Plants were said to be more resistant to pests that often caused issues with the old standard plants. The buying public seemed to love them and sales boom and still boom to this day.
Why the sudden demand for Heirloom seeds?
That’s a good question and one that I am trying to figure out because all of a sudden, or at least it seems all of a sudden to me, heirlooms seeds are all the rage. So I’ve decided to devote some time to this subject of seeds and I’m curious to see what you have to say about this?
One of the big advantages of growing heirloom vegetables in your garden is that when you save the seeds from these plants you get plants that are true to the parent plant. In other words, the plants that you grow will be identical to the plant that you collected the seeds from. Or at least as identical as you can get when growing from seed.
It’s a Sexual Thing.
When you grow plants from seed you are creating new plants by means of sexual reproduction which is what nature intended, but as with all forms of sexual reproduction there are variations. That’s why us humans, we all sorta look alike, yet we are all unique. Heirloom seeds are a product of sexual reproduction.
Aren’t Hybrid Seeds also a Form of Sexual Reproduction?
Well sorta, but with hybrids there’s some hanky panky going on. The pollination process (fertilization) is controlled and or manipulated. Tampered with really. Intentionally tampered with in an effort to control the out come of the reproduction process. Like TV, when hybrids first appeared on the market many thought they were the greatest thing ever. Today, many question the use of hybrid seeds, just like they question the value of TV in our lives.
Do Heirloom Vegetables Taste Better?
You tell me. I’m sure you have more experience with heirloom vegetables than I do so I am hoping that you will enlighten me about your experiences growing hybrid vegetables and fruits. Post your comments below.
There are many advantages to heirloom plants. For one thing, they have been around for ever and ever which means that they’ve had centuries to adapt to the environment in which they are being grown and they have built in defense mechanisms to fend off insects and disease. Plants grown from heirloom seed are as tough as nails. Years and years of exposure has allowed them to create their own immune system that has allowed them to survive all of these years.
Are Heirloom Vegetables Healthier, more Nutritious?
Many will answer that question with an astounding yes! Many people believe that hybrid plants are being bred for more and more production which results in a lot of fruit and vegetables without much taste or nutrition. I tend to agree with this statement if in fact hybrids produce a lot more fruit and veggies in a shorter amount of time. I learned years ago with landscape plants that the slower growing the plant, the better the plant in the long run.
An example. Forsythia verses Japanese maple. Forsythia grow like weeds, flower like crazy, but . . . it’s rare that I ever put one in the many landscapes that I designed over the years. Way too vigorous, just not fair to my customers. Japanese maples on the other hand? I put one in just about every landscape that I designed because they grow slowly and require little care. And they are beautiful!
So armed with that experience I think any plant that takes more time making a vegetable is probably going to do a better job of it. But that’s just me and I’m sure somebody will tell me why I’m wrong. And . . . I’m fine with that.
The True Attraction to Heirloom Vegetables?
They can be passed on from generation to generation. Don’t you wish that you had seeds from the tomatoes that your grandmother, or great grandmother grew. If you do, good for you! If you don’t, why not do that for the future generations in your family? Boy I wish I had seeds from Aunt Mona’s Sweet Corn, or Grannies Smokin Hot Peppers.
Your thoughts? Post them below.
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I think heirlooms are better for a few reasons: greater variety, freely available, not doctored, grown by nature with a little help, but not in a test tube.
Hybrids tend to be more susceptible to pests, less vigorous and the seeds are often infertile on purpose to stop you from using them again and again.
And yes, I think they taste better, but that could be because they are homegrown in the sun and picked when ready and fresh as, straight from the garden to the table with an hour or two.
I realize that this is an older link from a couple years ago, but I thought this topic to be very interesting…Heirloom just sounds so much healthier than a hybrid. It seems to be true that many commercial farmers will breed tomatoes to have thicker skins, ripen way after picking them very green and making them much hardier for handling. That sometimes takes away from other great things, like taste. I have only been gardening for about 15 years, and on a very small scale. I use to just purchase the vegetable plants already half grown. The problem with this was that it cost so much to have even the smallest garden and I was very limited to what I planted. After I started saving seeds just a few years ago simply to save money, I noticed something almost by accident. I started saving the seeds from my favorite and most hardy plants. One year I lost many plants from some kind of moldy disease. So I saved seeds from the ones that survived. I had this “moldy” stuff for a couple years. I didn’t change the soil or do anything significate except save the seeds from surviving plants. Well it’s no longer a problem. So I am wondering if I somehow created a hybrid? I garden mostly for the enjoyment I get from growing and eating the crop. I haven’t researched much about hybrid vs. heirloom. I guess they both have positives as well as negatives. I would like to think that I’m not destroying the nutritional value by trying to produce a hardier vegetable, but living in the north and wanting to grow my own food, I see growing a hardier plant to be more benedictional to me. Next I would like to conquer the nasty squash bug infestation. I haven’t grown a summer squash in a few years until last year…those nasty bugs came back. I did read somewhere that there’s a lemon squash that’s resistant to the squash bug. Wonder if I could cross that with another yummy squash? Hummmm…….
Hi, Mike! I absolutely love your articles and inspiration. I think people are becoming very aware that one company we should all be watching is Monsanto – they are the ones who are producing genetically modified seeds and are also going worldwide purchasing seed companies. My thought on this is that they want to place a patent on all the seeds – myself I prefer heirloom seeds – they keep the original plant intact and I try to purchase these seeds where I can. I just don’t like the thought of one company trying to change what Mother Nature provides for us – nutritionally sound and goodness-packed NATURAL unmodified seeds that will last for generation after generation – not seeds that can only be planted for one season and with very tight strings attached to them to boot! I’m all for Mother Nature and the all-natural beauty and bounty she provides. Keep up with all the wonderful information you so generously provide. Thank you!
Jim Brookins says
Mike, I am glad to hear the trend for heirloom is growing. This is an indication of the peoples choice vote against the GMO production of seeds. Since California Prop 37 did not pass due to the heavy advertizing by Monsantos and a large group of companies that benefit from the sell of low quality GMO laden “food”. That in turn is bad for the health of all who consume it. When the voice of the people is silenced at the poles. The people can effect the bank accounts of the “powers that be” by electing to buy non GMO food and plant high quality Heirloom seed in their gardens.
One great aspect about using Heirloom seeds is the fact you can plant the seeds from your harvest year after year which makes your seeds adapt to your personal growing techniques as well as the climate in your area. Use the adaptive power of evolution to generate better healthier plants and produce for your garden and your local area! Seeds from Heirloom plants are powerful evolving living things. A joyously beautiful contribution to our lives!!
Irene C. says
I’m so glad you posted this information for all to see. I’ve just recently been showing symptoms of “gluten” sensitiveness and came to find out the cause is GMO wheat grains. I’ve been finding a lot of people having allergy to gluten now. Scientists did not study the results of GMO wheat to the population before they flooded the market, thus obesity is spreading around the world.
Hello Mike and friends,
From my personal experience I have found out that heirloom seeds produce better tasting foods and healthier plants.
I’ve been growing them for a couple of years and I’m so satisfied that I got in contact with Baker Creek heirloom seed Co. And I’m proudly selling them in my home nursery.
Time to get back to the hearth and do our part in bringing it back to health.
Mon Satan does not care about food quality or healthy human beings. We should do everything possible to boycott them even if it means paying a bit more for non gmo produce.
I’m in the process of reading “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis & he has plenty to say about scientifically, genetically altering our food. He states that wheat – you know, the largest portion of our food pyramid via grains – bears little resemblance to the wheat that was grown 60 yrs. ago (so much for our amber waves of grain!). Did you ever wonder, as I have, why so many kids have peanut allergies today when, back in the day, EVERYONE took PBJ’s to school lunch? The answer most likely lies in our FDA-approved noodeling with our foods. Not to get too conspiracy theory but there are only a couple huuuuge companies that produce ALL of the seeds in those little packets to plant (they’ve been genetically altered while heirlooms remain pure). Our bodies weren’t created to digest most of what we put into it today. BTW, we all started getting fat as a nation since wheat was genetically altered to have longer shelf-life & be a more robust crop for our burgeoning fast-food mentality in the 50’s. A lot of people are tired of being sick & fat on the foods we ingest so now opt for heirloom seeds that agribusinesses haven’t tainted. I’ll be among the crowd that begins growing my own food this year from heirlooms – in addition to my ever-increasing flower garden of course!
My reason for using heirloom seeds is very simple. I am just getting back into gardening and if I am going to work that hard to produce healthy food for my family to eat and to store; I do not want GMO anything in my garden. I think if we look back to when so many diseases started taking over our health in this country we can see plenty of health issues have come on strong since the GMO seeds started becoming commonplace to our food supplies. In many other countries the things we accept here are not allowed. We can’t even get our gov to mandate labeling for GMO products which other countries already do. Spend some time researching GMO and diseases associated with it and the fact that an ex Monsanto executive is now working in our agriculture branch of the gov. Health is the reason for heirloom seeds!
Mike. thank you for all the newsletters and Q&A ops on your page. I so enjoy reading them. I’ve tried to steer clear of hybrids and GMO stuff, too. they aren’t as tasty and i’ve noticed a difference in the shelf life, etc. too. And the Monsanto GMO scares the living daylights out of me. Please, research this and also the affects of the chem trails being “sprayed” on us all heavily and daily. HAARP is another factor to consider in our planting now. anyway, heirloom ALL THE WAY !!! I try to save seed from my favorite stuff and pass some on when i can. thing is after a while I forget the actual names of some of my plants/fruits/veggies. I just know that they are my favorite. unfortunately I neglected to save some seed from my absolute favorite yellow tomato thinking I could find them again the next spring seeing that they were SO incredible that others would want them, too. Now I can’t find them….I’m a big dummy. lesson learned. I keep hoping to find a little volunteer plant some spring. hahaha so far…no good. 🙂 thanks again for all your generous advice, etc.
You are welcome and thank you for your comments. -Mike McGroarty
bill hyatt says
mike i use to stay with my grand paw and he had the best tomatoes and squash i would like to know where to purchase those seeds can you tell me where to buy them i love your web site i am retired and have been talking to my wife about doing what you are doing we live on 2 acres and have plenty of room keep up the good work
Mike.. perhaps you could do an article on the difference between ‘Patented and TM Plants’. I have an Elder Berry I was planning on ‘trimming up a bit’..and thought I would try and root some of the cuttings for myself and others from the pruning..but on one website I looked at, it is listed as;
Sambucus nigra Black Lace™ (syn. ‘Eva’) Caprifoliaceae
Black Lace Elder or Elderberry sam-BEW-kus ni-GRA
•Broadleaf deciduous shrub, compact to about 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) tall and wide. Leaves finely cut (laciniate), dark purple almost black. Flowers medium pink.
•Sun and part shade.
•Hardy to USDA Zone 4 From the Horticulture Research International, East Malling, England; Plant Patent 15,575, 2/22/05.
With that TM on the name, and the Patent #..that would be ‘Illegal’ ?
Billy Joe Nuckles says
I still have heirloom sour cherries and sweet cherries and I just go out and dig up trees and keep them going. We also have corn and beans that are heirloom and have to pay no one for the seed. A lot of hybrid seed will not produce good if replanted. If you have heirloom seed, keep them going to others.
Like so many others, I have been following you for several years! Keep up the great work of providing us with interesting articles!
As to heirlooms; I have been gardening for years here in central Fl. and find that the heirlooms out perform any hybrid tomato, pepper, eggplant, etc that I have ever raised. As well as having a much better flavor. It has taken some trial and error to find the ones that perform the best, but I find that is half the fun of gardening.
a month or so ago I had a pleasant surprise; 4 months ago I bought some wonderfully delicious brandywyne tomatoes that were grown by a local farmer. I took the scraps and dumped them in a covered trough, along with the scraps of some homegrown california wonder bell peppers. (The trough is to be my worm bed this yr.) I went by one day and noticed sprouts, each day I kept watching as dozens of seedlings were emerging. First the tomatoes came up and a week later the peppers started sprouting. As each seedling developed their 2nd sets of leaves, I started transplanting them to individual cell packs and then on up to 4″ pots. Some are almost ready to go in my garden. And they are all in different stages of growth which is great! What a wonderful way to start the gardening season and I can’t wait until they actually start producing!!
Best of all — They were “FREE”.
My local sewage treatment plant offers residents the processed solids for fertilizers. do you recommend using them ,and if so what is best use?
Other countries disallow US food because it is unnatural and dangerous to our future. When was the last memory you have of a enjoying a ‘real’ peach so sweet and juicy it is messy. I have been going out of my way to find Amish food for decades as I found it still has ‘chi’ or life in it. Look at the trends back towards truly healthy foods in our restaurants in our country. Thanksgiving time I say, You are what you eat, you Turkey.
The issue I have with hybrids is the fact that they are only good for one generation. True self-sufficiency requires that the farmer be capable of independent of the seed producer.
I understand what you are saying and won’t argue with you. I really brought this up to point out that the word “hybrid” is not a bad word. It just often misunderstood. In the world of ornamental landscape plants we perpetually grow hybrids via asexual reproductions, cuttings, budding and grafting and don’t need anybody’s permission to do so. Patented plants? That’s a topic for a different day, but we’ll get there. -Mike McGroarty
Edwin J, Losiewicz says
You should all visit Wintersown, they are truly good folk and will send you “FREE” seeds, yes I said FREE.
We started growing Heirlooms with their seeds and now save the seeds to replant. We even grow several plants in containers on the front porch, It’s a joy to see them each time we come home. We also do Basil which I highly recommend.Fresh Pesto is easy to make and you’ll love it.
I still have 4 gallons of homemade pickled green tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes are the best tasting by far! There doesn’t seem to be as many per plant, and they are often deformed looking, but the taste is something that just can’t be adequately described.
I am a firm believer in Heirloom Seeds! The children of our future will have a lot to deal with….I hope that their food, will not be the major problem.
Keep the heirlooms growing, forget the hybrid and GMO.
There is a great place to purchase heirloom seeds in Canada, they ship all over the world!
You can buy as many packages as you want and they will ship for $2.50. Great Deal!!
Kristen Oberhauser says
My first introduction to heirlooms was a tomato served to me by a Greek woman who I helped in the garden when I was 13 . She had saved the seeds from a tomato from her home town in Greece when she went back there to visit. She said it best- you can’t match the taste of something that has been past down . I have the seeds to 25 heirloom tomatoes, 18 peppers, and 4 beans. I am beginning to save them myself. Beginning. I know people that have bred their own – I would have thought you were all over that.
I grow 8 or 9 types of squashes,5 or 6 melons. I love he names , the history of each variety. The dry nuttiness of Marina di Chiogga, the moist sweetness of Musque de Provence- they cannot be matched by any hybrid.Some of the varieties I grow will come through for me when the rain has ruined all the other varieties. It’s like an insurance policy.
And the joy of reading Baker’s Creek, The Seed Saver’s, Sandy Hill. Fedco. Bliss.
I have grown the odd and the beautiful . I do not want all my food to look the same. Purple beans, white tomatoes, and pink eggplant can really capture the imagination. There are so many subtle differences and some really pronounced ones too.
Here in town we have an amazing man, John Bunker, who collects heirloom apples. He searches for the varieties that are “lost”. These apples are our agricultural heirlooms, unique to our climate and loci. They were the cider, switchell and butters that fed out forfathers. The pie made from a Golden Russet or Wolf river is totally different from a Macintosh pie.
In a world that is being over-run with chain stores, huge corporations and the pressures of media driven conformation, heirlooms are bucking a trend.
I’m new to farming north of Washington DC in Maryland and it’s nearly killed me! I totally agree with you and was so moved I wanted to connect better.
I used to pack my suitcase up with Amish foods when I worked in Lancaster PA and had to fly back home to the Palm Beaches for 20 years. That likely saved my life.
It is unconscionable to alter seeds to not reproduce. Talk about control freaks, even our ability to grow our own food. Hardly what our forefathers who braved to fight for our freedoms would bear.
I am laying out a smaller garden this year and will use only heirloom or Amish seeds and plants. They also have incredible knowledge of medicinal cures that work far better than the drugs we get from our doctors.
Don’t make much money at that though, eh, or keep you as a life long patient by treating only symptoms.
I’m considering specializing in natural herbs and spices for health and taste and fun.
I’m surprised Gurneys hasn’t been on this bandwagon since day one.
I think protecting the genetic diversity of our vegetables is part of the interest in heirloom seeds. There is concern that we will become dependent on genetically modified and patented seeds. It is a security issue if we can’t grow our own seeds. Less genetic diversity also makes us vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. For instance, some plants are more heat tolerant, or blight resistant, so the more varieties available, the better chance something will grow in changing conditions.
Lorraine Cook says
If you are concerned about the future of the planet, you should watch the two films produced by Michael Murphy. The first is titled, “What in the World Are They Spraying,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf0khstYDLA and the second is “Why in the World Are They Spraying.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEfJO0-cTis
Lisa Finch says
Generally, heirloom vegetables taste better, I think. Hybridization, while making the plant more vigorous, sometimes sacrifices the taste of heirlooms. This is especially true, in my opinion, in tomatoes and beans.
It is the responsibility of every grower on the planet to protect against the poisoning of the food supply. It seems the agenda of these chemical companys is to control. These people who are cross pollinating natural crops should be sued for gross environment pollution, it touches every aspect of the quality of life of the human race. If there are no “fertile” natural seeds, THERE IS NO FUTURE. The population will be dictated to or not eat. Everyone should see the movie, Soilent Green, maybe far fetched, but….really…is it…?
Two reasons for heirloom seeds: 1. I don’t care for hybrid tomatoes. Today’s hybrid toms have tough skin and no taste. I don’t see any sense in planting my garden with tomatoes that taste like I bought them in the grocery store regardless of their disease resistance.
2. When Monsanto eventually owns all seed resources I’d like to have my own supply as to not be forced to use their’s. And I want to stay away from GMO seeds.
I’m older than you and I remember what tomatoes are supposed to taste like. They are hard to come by now.
Whether you choose to use hybrids, heirlooms, organics or GMSs is a highly individual decision, usually based on aesthetics, personal history, differing needs and personal positions on the ecological, economic, and political issues–which are immense, complicated and troubling to say the least. The only way to get plants that produce predictable fruit is to either save your own from non-hybridized varieties and be careful about what they have the opportunity to cross pollinate with OR accept the position of being forced to buy new seed , whether hybrid, GMO or heirloom, every year–whether from heirloom seed producers or from companies that are ultimately owned by predatory giant companies like Monsanto. These companies are not idiots. They know that if they control the availability of seeds, and offer only seeds that are GMO, hybids or produce plants without viable 2nd generation seed, they ultimately control all food, food choices and feed on the planet. And ultimately food will be far more valuable than money. However, if you control both, as Monsanto seeks to do…nuff said? Too many 3rd world countries have bought into the promise of superagriculture, only to find that they are financially ruined because they can no longer save seed from season to season to maintain their farms–either because of the built in sterility factors of the plants, or because the seeds do not produce seed that is “true” in subsequent generations, which leads to less and less viable crops and effective planning in either small or large scale agricultural planning. And these small scale or 3rd world farmers are never told that by buying into the super seeds, they are essentially locked into a hostage-like situation to the giant agri and chem businesses permanently. Further, the loss of varieties and strains of vegetables that are the product of many, many generations of farming means that, as climate changes, we have much less to choose from, and much less resiliency to change once those varieties are lost. There is a “seed bank” project in Norway that is probably one of the greatest treasures on our planet–precisely because they are preserving heirloom seed. But one seed bank–even a very large one–is not enough to preserve agricultural autonomy or resilience if the climate changes speed up more, or we face a series of droughts and famine. For me, using heirloom seed is survival, and a sacred trust: actually as important as the Constitution–perhaps more, because you can’t eat or grow words into food. I’m not willing to be party to or hostage of giant corporations who, in their efforts to control the agricultural resources of the world, may contribute to its’ starvation. The Monsanto lawsuits related to wind pollinated crops is only one of many, many examples of the problems. Unfortunately, organic and heirloom farmers are already fighting a serious uphill battle just in production costs, without having to deal with predatory lawsuits. And they certainly have no resources to fight the giants when their own hard-won organic status is destroyed through wind pollination.
Still, in fairness, their have been some instances where selective breeding has produced seed that will grow in areas it wasn’t meant to, or where specific disease or toxin resistance is absolutely necessary to have any crops at all. And there have been a couple of developments in which hybrids have produced much higher concentrations of specific nutrients. But so has natural selection. And some of the strongest “super-nutrient” foods have been based on discoveries of heirloom seeds that had been generally lost to the market, rediscovered by bio-anthroplogists–and bought out by the Monsantos of the world.
It’s personal decision. For me it’s freedom, heritage, and personal responsibility–7th generation thinking. What will be the best choice for the earth as a whole, and what will the effects of my choices be out 7 generations, if humanity survives that long.
Patricia Klitgaard says
We went to the Baker’s Creek Seed Bank in Petaluma, CA last spring. It’s in an old bank and is an absolutely gorgeous, spacious space. Spend several hours looking at seeds and bought loads. Especially love their melon section of the catalogue which shows especially exotic melons. However, for tomatoes I like tomatofest.com best. This is a group in Santa Cruz, CA, which has an absolutely HUGE selection of organically grown tomato seeds and many heirlooms.
Richard & Mary Ann Houle says
Mike, we have taken 3 yrs to build our nursery(small), an enclosed chix run & coop ( using a pod) and a 28 x 52 greenhouse. We use only heirloom seeds ,except for a few plants, in our 13 raised beds(florida ,have to) we started a small nursery called Nana’s Nursery , which we hope to open soon. We are happy with these heirloom seeds from many different sources. have pics of garden and coop .Thanks for all the good things you do. We appreciate you. It is because of you we are able to do this ..lol even at 68 and 70 lol
Richard and Mary,
Good for you! I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Few years back I had a couple from Florida that were growing and sell a lot of plants. I mean they were reporting some crazy big numbers for weekend sales. Then one day Harold posted that he was 83 years old and only had one leg. “But” he said; “My friend comes over to help me and he’s only 80!” Absolutely amazing, but more inspiring that anything! They finally retired for the second or third time, but they were loved by our members! -Mike McGroarty
What I love about gardeners is their love for gardening and sharing the information with others without charge. Also sharing the fruit of their labors with neighbors and friends.
MIKE I DONT HAVE TIME TO READ WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY .
I DO HAVE A FEW THINGS TO SAY ABOUT HEIRLOOM SEEDS HOW ABOUT 4 GENERATIONS OF FARMING AND GARDENING.
WHEN I SEEN YOU MAKEING YOUR GREAT BAKED BEANS, USEING CAMBELS PORK & BEANS I KNEW EXACT WHERE YOU WHERE? YOU WERE COMEING FROM. YOU HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT GOOD HEALTY FOOD IS. NO DISRESPECT TO YOU OR YOURS.
MY GREAT GRAND DAD–MY GRAND DAD-MY FATHER AND NOW ME, HAVE BEEN USEING HEIRLOOM SEEDS, THEY NEVER SPENT MONEY ON SEEDS AND I ALSO DONT .AND ALL OF OUR PRODUCTS ARE TOP NOTCH, IF THEY WERENT , ALOW ME TO EXPLAIN.
I RAISED 13 CHILDREN ON MY FARM, JUST A FEW EXAMPLES.
725 QTs OF TOMATOES- 300 QTs OF CORM -250 QTs OF PEAS
360 IBs OF DRIED BEANS [ 4 TYPES ]–150 QTs OF RED BEETS-
100 QTs OF A SPECIAL CHILE – 40- QTs OF YELLOW WAX BEANS
5 TYPES OF GARLIC, HARD NECK AND SOFT NECK, 3 TYPES OF OONIONS FOR THE SEASON AND FOR CANNING, PINTS AND QTs OF CARROTS, MANY ROOT CROPS, HERBS ETC-ETC- TO MANY PRODUCTS TO MENTION. WE ALSO RAISE OUR OWN LIVE STOCK, AND WE EAT
OUR RABBITS , WE MAKE OUR OWN ORGANIC FERT. AND WE DO PURCHASE MAGNESIUM -ROCK DUST AND A FEW NATURAL PRODUTS.
WE USE BROWN RICE AND WE PURCHASE OUR FLOUR FROM THE
AMISH . IM TOTAL AGAINST THE GMO MOVEMENT, THE GOV.
WILL NEVER CONTROL ME OR MY FAMILY. I CAN GO ON AND ON
IM SURE YOU GOT THE POINT. NO DISRECPECT TO YOU MIKE
KEEP EATING THOSE PORK -BEANS.
AND I ALSO RAISE MY OWN POTATOES OVER 1500 Lbs.
MIKE IF THIS GOV. WAS AND IS SO GREAT, WHY DO WE HAVE IN
THIS COUNTRY A 240 TRILLION DOLLAR DEBT OF UNPAID BILLS
GREAT COUNTRY ISNT IT ?
BILL AT SILVER
You’re right, I’m not a vegetable grower, I was always too busy growing landscape plants and working a zillion hours doing all kinds of other things. I’m very proud to have you on my mailing list, it’s people like you that make this country great! I won’t get into a political debate with anybody, that’s not what this is about, but I will tell you this. I have been for a long time and still am troubled by the debt that this country is carrying and creating. Apparently that’s what governments do, not many other places in the world that haven’t done the same thing.
In my heart I believe that eventually the young people of this country will wake up and figure out what they need to do and they’ll get it done. Washington needs a make over from top to bottom and I believe that one of these days the young people will take control of what rightfully belongs to them.
Mike. Most all countries outside the United States has outlawed GMO foods. The reason being ,they have tested animals with GMO feed and the animal are growing hugh tumers and dying. GMO grains are a danger to animal life, destroying their organs, and a danger to human life.To many people are not aware of the dangers of GMO foods. If Monsanto is not stopped, the future of our children and graindchildren is in danger. It has already been proven that their grains kill, and produce less crops when planted, and sometimes no crop at all. I read where farmers in India are committing suicide because their crops are failing with GMO seeds, and they cannot take care of their families. The whole nation needs to plant only heritage seeds for their crops, and to protect their health.
Jim King says
Anytime man messes with something using methods other then natural, though controlled, breeding the end result is almost invariably ‘bad’ in some way. It may not show up for years, but it almost always does. GMOs have already began showing their ‘bad’ traits and are outlawed in many countries. IMO, the only reason they aren’t outlawed in this country is because of graft, corruption and bribery. I, personally, will never knowingly purchase anything that is genetically modified, and I also never use any of the commercially produced insecticides or herbicides. Those producing and using those items are ruining the Earth.
merry collop says
How do I know if the blueberries (plants) I just purchased are gmo or hybrid, or heirloom?
Hopefully the plants that you bought were properly tagged. My guess is that they were grown from cuttings of hybrid plants. I’m going to write something about these kinds of hybrid plants.
I’ve enjoyed your letters. As for the heirlooms, I agree with what Arthur said. I have found that the heirlooms do taste better and since I have difficulty being around many man-made products I have bought the seeds that I could find to grow myself. I have a little more trouble with getting them started, but they seem less likely to give me trouble once the plant is past seedling. I also have less trouble with some garden pests, more trouble with others. 6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other.
I believe the popularity these days of heirloom seeds can be attributed to what Mike said in his post, that people want a connection with their ancestors. That’s a good reason, but there are more. The major one, in my opinion, has to do with the political climate in the world today. Without trying to start an argument about politics, let me just say that runaway government intervention into our lives today could possibly, and soon, take away our right to buy seeds that can be grown year after year by saving the seeds. I’m not a doomssayer, but have you tried to buy something as simple, cheap, and plentiful as .22 caliber ammo lately? It could happen to seeds, as well.
Bob Radel says
I grow heirloom tomatoes for us and our Farmers’ Market. The tomatoes are beautiful and ugly.The heirlooms are delicious as compared to the grocery store maters. You can play baseball with maters from Krogers. The heirlooms have a varying range of tastes and textures. We have to try and re-educate the consumers. Most heirlooms aren’t pretty, round, red, and blemish free. Once you put your lips around around an heirloom, odds are you won’t switch back to the tasteless cardboard ‘tomato’. Try a Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Garden Peach, or German Queen.This is a good place to start.
I haven’t taken the time to read all 168 responses to your question, so if I repeat what others have said, please forgive me. I bought two geranium plants last summer. I love geraniums. One was a pink heirloom and the other was a bright orange hybrid. I wanted to start cuttings from both plants so I would have new ones for this spring. I never could get the hybrid to sprout, but the heirloom did very well. I don’t know why that is, but I have been told that hybrids won’t reproduce. If that is so, then there is another advantage of the heirloom seeds. I believe the government is doing that on purpose so that we will eventually depend on the government for our food and will not be able to grow food for ourselves. Maybe you think I’m crazy. That’s okay.
GMO’s produce Cancers. Heirlooms do not. Which ones do You think we should be feeding our Children with?
Duh? Simple answer don’t You think?
Anyone with info for heirloom seeds in East Africa, particularly inUganda?
Farmers have been making Hybrids since farming began.
Where do you think all the Heirloom varieties came from?
The difference was that they re-crossed until the desired traits could be acheived by almost all of the progeny.
(They also sometimes controlled and / or manipulated the pollination process through bagging and hand pollinating.)
The hybrid scam was created to keep you buying hybrid seed from the seed company, instead of just growing a few extra and saving your own seed.
Every benefit you list for hybrids are and were always available from heirlooms, you just had to selectively take the hybrids a few generations further.
The booming sales you refer to are not so much for hybrids as for supermarket produce, many of which are hybrids.
Those were bred to; grow larger, grow faster, grow more efficiently on the post war petro-chemicals, be cosmetically prettier, ship well over greater distances, keep longer on the shelf and resist pests better.
All of those traits were selected over taste.
The last sentence is the reason for the demand.
Science has proven that the fast growing supermarket produce has more mass and yet the same amount of flavoring components.
That is why it all seems tasteless to those of us who remember the way it used to taste when we were kids. (No, your taste buds didn’t deteriorate, and you are not looking back through rose colored nostalgia glasses.)
Flavorful strawberries, muskmelons (“cantaloupes”), tomatoes and many others cannot be found in a supermarket anymore…But what you do find can sit on the shelf for days and look fine.
Meanwhile, take a look at how many dozen varieties of those aforementioned are available as heirlooms.
Heirlooms grown in good soils with traditional fertilizers (not chemicals) containing all the trace elements missing or stripped from factory farms almost always taste better.
I say almost, because not all of the heirlooms are perfect, there are just too many varieties.
A good, albeit somewhat vulgar way to describe these three things is:
Heirlooms = products of a love match that survives time and the harshness of life.
Hybrids = products an arranged marriage, only male A may breed with female A, which brings about uniformity but seldom flavor.
Genetically modified organisms = products of bestiality which without scientific intervention would have neither occurred nor survived, thus their term of non-endearment “frankenfood”.
Looks like you hit on a hot topic, Mike!
One of the reasons I like you and your attitude is you encourage us to grow non-patented varieties, ones that nobody gets royalties on any longer.
I don’t buy anything but heirlooms for years now. Another advantage is that if you save the seeds from the best of your best, you can breed varieties that are not only heirlooms, but have adapted to your climate and soil. Monsanto has a stated goal of monopolizing the seed supply — and as kissinger said, “control the food, control the people.” Biotech companies have been spending more money buying up seed companies than R&D lately. And why are people like bill gates hoarding quantities of seeds of every plant on the planet in their Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
Heirlooms are so popular, unethical companies are cashing in on the terminology with seeds that are not heirloom, so if you haven’t heard of an heirloom variety before, invest some time in research.
I’ve done biz with these wonderful, smaller companies and gotten beyond excellent service and products:
Organic heirloom garlic: 2 Sisters Garlic.
Underwood gardens: organic heirloom seeds and excellent info on beyond organic gardening (how to build the richest soil with commonly available organic amendments such as black strap molasses for horses and raw milk). Skyfire Garden seeds: heirloom food and flower seeds which are Certified Naturally Grown (same standards as organic but at a lower cost for small organic growers).
I purchased ft. long Cucumber seeds, had beautiful ft. long Cucumbers. I am a seed saver. Planted the seed I saved. 2 of the plants produced a ft. long Cucumber that looked like a Cantaloupe on the out side, as big around as a Cantaloupe, looked like a Cantaloupe inside, but had the taste & smell of a Cucumber. I planted a couple of the seed to see what I get next.
Ray A. says
One word, Monsanto! That’s why.
have just joined recently and am really enjoying all your article.
I have been planting heirloom seeds for about 45 years now and I am planting some of the same seeds that my Mother planted and her Mother. We have about 10 tomato
varieties, about 6 peppers and cantaloupes, beans, melons and my brother plants heirloom corn in his fields that
grow 10-12 ft in height, with large white ears, very tasty and very economical for him as he uses it for silage also for his cattle.
The heirloom varieties taste so much better than the hybrid varieties. And we are not dependent on other
people to sustain our veggies. I also trade and sell a
few seeds and grow plants and share with others. Love
Most heirloom seeds are not controlled by the large Chemical and seed companies. You do not have to buy seed every year as you just save your own, give them to neighbors or sell them. Like Tomatoes, I grow a peach tomato that is heirloom, it has fuzzy yellow skin and tastes more like candy than tomato. It is really important that we all plant and save seeds, Monsanto owns something like 42 percent of the seeds in this country, only two seed companies in Canada are not owned by Monsanto. If we all don’t stand up and say enough is enough, and begin taking care of our God given right to feed ourselves, companies like Monsanto will be the ones telling us what we can eat and what we can plant.
Alan Bailey says
I live in the UK (England),love the flavours of heritage tomatoes and over 90% of the tomatoes I grow are heritage (even if I do get blight every year). I do grow some F1 hybrids, Legend and Ferline, to ensure I can get some crop despite the blight.I would appreciate some info on the peach tomatoes please.
you will find a peach tomato here http://seedrack.com/10.html
Alan Bailey says
Thanks for the info. It would have cost me over $11.00 inc shipping for 1 packet
I googled and found “Madriverseeds” imported from the USA and being sold in Ireland. I bought about 130 seeds (11 packets of different varieties) of heirloom tomatoes for £9.95 inc.
I purchased blueberry plants from watersblueberryfarm.com and got great plants….very productive 2 years later. Three feet tall when delivered. I purchased 10 plants from Dimeos farm last year, what a mistake. The plants were 3 years old from both places. The plants from Demeos were the size of the blueberry plants you can get at Home Depot for $6.99.
I would recomend Waters….their prices are good, too.
Sandra Fackler says
I’ve been buying heirloom tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market for several years, this year I will try to grow my own. I’m sick of the hard, pink 3 inch things they call organic tomatoes from Mexico. They are some bred for shipping convenience rather than for taste or color. I was raised on Michigan truck garden “beefsteak” tomatoes. Sweet and juicy when ripe, a single slice more than covered a slice of bread for a sandwich. Lots of seeds and juice around the seeds. Now you can’t find those anywhere except the farmer’s markets. Another thing, those tomatoes peeled easily. My grandmother always peeled the fresh tomatoes before she sliced them. So much better flavor. Yum.
GMO is the reason for the renewed interest in heirloom seeds. Not only are GMO foods TRULY DANGEROUS to your health, Monsanto and others are trying to “own” the world’s food supply. That should be enough to make everyone angry, but amazingly many people still seem unaware of the ramifications of such actions. They are trying to make it so you CAN’T eat without paying them a royalty on every bite. They want to own the rights to every seed planted on earth – that means you have no rights at all. What happens when something destroys the few varieties they offer us? If no one still has heirloom seeds, we do without. It’s a matter of personal, national, and worldwide security. Heirloom seeds have to be preserved and everyone needs to be growing their own food.
Bill Martin says
Most heirlooms I have tried have not been worth garden space. Cherikee Purple is sweet but tasteless, has few scrawny fruits which rot within a day of picking. Mortgage lifter and Brandywine didn’t tasre any better than Better boy, or any of the other hybrids and were light producers. I would try GMO tomatos if I could find them!!
People should watch this video with Catherine Austin Fitts. She talks about a lot of things, including food and seeds. A very eye-opening interview. I suggest everybody get self-sufficient and invest in your own communities.
I have been saving seeds from tomatos that I purchased at our local farmers market. I planted them and they all came up. The heirloom tomato plant that I planted last year, gifted me with a tomato that was 1 1/2 pounds,and was very tasty.
Heirloom’s taste better than the NEWER hybrids. The older hybrids had taste but newer aren’t that tasty.
I have gardened over 67 years, preserving food for winter meals. I so want to go back to the older varieties that tasted and processed so much better. Tomatoes for example taste like cardboard. Yes thicker skins help in shipping but those of us who can grow our own can appreciate the better taste, flavors, and yes smell of the older varieties. Keep up this important work. Mike. Your colum is always the first email I read.
Thanks so much for helping all of us.
The big thing about heirloom seeds is the ability for the plant to produce seeds that are viable and will grow into the same as the parent. If disaster were to strike and suddenly it was not possible to just go to the supermarket and buy produce then it would be advantageous to be able to grow your own food. Hybrid seeds do not always germinate or produce something edible. I save seeds from my garden and replant them.
It’s quite simple, really. Anyone who ate a beefstake tomato around 1960 new what the tomato tasted like and it was the taste of fresh tomato. By 1970 almost all tomatoes had become bland. The majority still are bland. However, some growers have come up with tomatoes are sweet along with tomato flavor. They are not regular sized tomatoes but I’d trade reasonable size for flavor as long as it suited a meal. There are some of us though that want to taste that 1960 beestake again. Unfortunately, even if it comes back, our taste buds are not what they were 53 years ago.
There are numerous sources of heirloom seeds, virtually every seed catalog will feature many varieties, you just have to read the description.
However, the best place I have found is Seed Savers Exchange. seedsavers.org
All heirloom seeds and frankly the best looking catalog I have ever seen. I have spoken with them a couple of times (and have made a seed contribution as well), they are really nice folks to deal with.
Growing Your Own Food is Like Printing Your Own Money (Video)
In this moving and heartwarming TED Talk, listen to Ron Finley (the guerilla gardener) share his experience about why he started planting urban gardens in South Central Los Angeles and how it impacted the local community.
Ray M says
My Great Aunt Mary grew veggies and flowers at her house from 1920 when she came to America. She always used seeds form her crop over & over. Everything was great. But when she passed she had small jars of seeds.Many of her family took some. I got 1 jar of marigold seeds. I keep that jar for 17 years and one day planted them all in a large container. AND THEY GREW THEY FILLED THE CONTAINER WITH FLOWERS. hOW ABOUT THAT. And like an fool I didn’t keep the seeds.
Art Sulenski says
Here in Costa Rica the tomatoes are much the same as in the USA, they are pasteboard shippers, no taste. I like acid tomatoes like Boxcar Willies which I have to grow under a clear poly roof as we get too much rain during the rainy season, in 6 months average 100″. I am in the process of finding heritage bell pepper seeds. I only grow things I can save the seeds from so I can choose the best looking, tasting veggies so over years they will acclimate to Costa Rica, I cannot do that with hybrids. Besides all this fussing gives an ol’ retired person something to do and eat great tasting veggies at the same time.
One reason heirloom seeds are popular is because many people expect the economy to collapse in the very near future. Growing a garden is a great way to provide food for yourself, your friends and neighbors. Hybrid seeds will not grow true to type. You may get fruits or vegetables that are not palatable and get the worst traits of the hybrids. Heirlooms are the preferred seeds because seeds are true to type. The seeds can be saved and replanted or given away/swapped. That’s security.
Kevin woody says
I really like the seed savers website.
The whole org is for heirloom seeds storage, research, and documentation. They have a catalog and great instructional cideos
I’m rather new at farming. Last year we bought some winter squash at a farm stand, delicata. I had never heard of it before. It was so good. We saved the seeds and ended up growing 5 different kinds of winter squash.
So they told me they were hybid seeds. All I know is that they were all great and I saved the seeds again so we will see what comes next fall. 🙂
Mostly I plant heirlooms but I’m not phobic about it. Some hybrids have traits that may be beneficial, and may satisfy certain needs or desires (think first ripe tomato on the block). Heirlooms come from “sports”, adaptation over time or hybridization, and the ones that are considered to be heirloom or open pollination plants are the ones that breed true for at least 8 generations. IMHO some hybrids are worth growing just as some Heirlooms are not. I’ve used most of the sites above and found them reliable and ethical, and I still use seed rack seeds from several suppliers, both heirloom and hybrids. Taste, production reliability and sometimes just because I want to grow it.
Bill Maitland says
Kudos to all of you defending heirloom seeds! I think everyone should get back to gardening organically. I have grown heirloom tomatoes and a few other vegetables and the taste is outstanding. I personally don’t like things that are ”Tampered with”. Great subject Mike, keep up the good work!
Sandy Trank says
Mike, My answer to the sudden love of Heirloom is that the food industry is producing some really weird stuff these days in GMO’s that are actually causing cancer and death in lab animals. If I buy and save Heirloom seeds, I know what I am eating and the following year the seeds produce a consistent quality and wonderful taste. I appreciate all the new technology that has been helpful to us all but when it comes to food, I don’t think it’s particularly good to tamper with what God made that is already wonderful! The other think is hybrid seeds aren’t consistent and some sterile. Thanks for all your newsletters! I am fairly new to the growing group but I have learned a lot from your sharing with all of us. Thanks!
There is a very interesting book I read last year called “Folks this ain’t normal” by Joel Salatin. It deals with this issue and others. He is about sustainable farming. A very intersting read.
Tom Smith says
I have been using heirloom seeds in my vegetable garden for the last 4 years. Some of the vegetables we take the seeds from and use the next year. In the event that seeds became unavailable, with the heirlooms at least we know what we are going to get when the seeds grow.
The GMO stuff discussed above just scratches the issue of GMO. We raise chickens. Several months ago, our chickens quit eating the corn in the chicken scratch and after some research found out that the animal feed processors had started using GMO corn.
The problem that I have with the straight hybrid seeds is that the harvested seeds rarely come out the same way the original seeds did.
So we just prefer the performance and longevity of the heirloom seeds.
Back in the ’90s there were pubs that indicated the goal of GM seeds were to create a self pollinating and terminating seed. This would be ideal for the seed producing companies. Not too good for the poor farmer/gardener. Very sad day for humanity.
Lorraine Scotto-Blaich says
Yes! We always plant Heirloom and organic seed. We want to make sure the “Monsanto Monster”, is nowhere near our food source. No GMO!!!
Well, Mike, did the above help you out yet? The answer to your question is that nature still knows how to do it better. Natural selection creates the most disease resistant varieties. If a bug got into U.S. wheat, it would all be wiped out because of the way it’s “bred”. Nature knows variety is the key to survival, strength and health. Man is not God.
Thanks for your input, I’m reading, reading reading.
Edwin J, Losiewicz says
Baker Seeds has absolutely beautiful catalogs. Go to their website and check it out.
Julie Richards says
I have read through the comments and I have to say that there is a big difference between hybrid and GMO seeds but many hybrid seeds are GMO induced. So I try to find heirloom seeds any time I plant. There are enough preservatives and alterations to my food as it is, I would like to have something that is natural. Besides, when you grow heirloom varieties, you get to pick those same great tomatoes, beans and corn that you ate at Grandma’s house when you were little.
Edwin J, Losiewicz says
We grow Heirloom tomatoes and peppers and save the seeds. You can’t save hybrids and expect to get decent results.
As to the taste, the hybrids are bred to resist shipping damage, have a uniform size etc. Taste is a distant consideration to the commercial growers. Most people haven’t tasted a real tomato, it’s a real surprise to them when they do.
It seems to me that the aim of hybrids are to boost volume production. Uniform size and color make for ease of packaging and ease of sale, taste and nutrition are not the goal. Heirlooms are of varying size and color, but taste like the real deal (because they ARE!) Some hybrids are bred to yield health benefits, IF that particular benefit is a hot button BUYING issue to the public. If it isn’t a selling feature, however, the possible health benefits of hybrids are ignored. In short, these plant “MANUFACTURERS” are only after your dollars, with the least amount of investment. Profit uber alles.
When you plant hybrid seeds that came from hybrid seeds, you don’t know what traits you will get from the original plants. The more you used seeds from hybrids you probably would eventually have some bastard plants. Therefore, save the best of the heirlooms and you should have identical plants each generation. If you destroy the heirlooms, what do you have to work with to get the hybrids? I use both but have found some hybrids become unavailable.
Pamela Dallaire says
I live in Northern Ontario, Canada, and get my heirloom seeds at Terra Edibles and Vesseys, both in Ontario.
I’ve been using Heirloom seeds for years and they work wonderfully as long as you plant ONE variety of vegetable, alternating each year.
The flavour of the old varieties is unbelievable. They may not look perfect on the outside, because they aren’t as resistant to bugs and disease, but they worth the effort for the taste. I look for descriptions of the flavour when I order seed.
If you plant more than one variety, of carrots let say, then don’t collect the seed from that crop or it will be a mix from cross-pollination. If your neighbours are growing tomatoes when you are, they may also cross-pollinate.
I keep seed for years, from carrots, tomatoes, etc. and they germinate just fine. Some things, like carrots, are biennial and only produce seed in the second year. I have to bring some carrots inside and keep them in the root cellar over winter to make seed the next year. Two carrots will produce enough seed for more than a season, two ripe tomatoes have enough seeds to share with your whole neighbourhood. I dry my seeds on the refrigerator in paper towels.
Do you think the problem of cross pollination happens with tomatoes as well? Seems it would. Could you plant them in different areas in raised beds to prevent this? Living in central Texas where the soil is poor in places, I have put in several raised bed gardens. I am convinced that heirloom vegetables are the best for us and our communities and have been using them exclusively for a couple of years. If you are in the area, The Natural Gardener is the place to buy hardy heirlooms to get started. In a drought as we have been in for a couple of years, the heirlooms did not produce but the plants lived and I had a great fall garden.
We should also Legalize Hemp so we can grow that too
I harvested heirloom tomato seeds from heirloom tomatoes that I bought and tried planting them the following year. The plant grew fine, but the tomatoes never ripened and were very dry. I start tomatoes from seed every year so don’t understand why I had no luck with the heirloom variety.
Deb Rebel says
Cross pollenations. If you had another variety within 250 feet upwind or 100 feet downwind you definitely had crosses. If the neighbor had different plants they could have crossed with yours.
When I set a competition fruit OR a seed fruit, I will pick off the side blooms of a ready to bloom cluster, leaving only the center one or two (the largest) and make a small drawstring bag from an old sheer curtain, and ‘bag’ the flower or flowers before it blooms. Then when it does, I take a qtip in early morning… and do the pollenating myself. Then rebag the bloom. This way I know 100% what was crossed. When the fruit starts to form then I unbag it and mark it with a bit of yarn loosely tied to show which one or ones are marked as ‘seeders’.
A competition fruit is similar except I have removed most of the other blooms and fruits off the plant, maybe setting four fruit by hand on the entire plant and by golfball size having thinned to one fruit. For the entire plant. And in competition growing, I can eat the losers and after weighing in, even eat a winner if I have any.
Wow what patience you have and an inspiring idea that I will try. Thanks for sharing.
I would think the contain Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO’s)and that is not good for you.Like seedless watermelon,seedless grapes they are trying to control our food supply(NO SEEDS to plant).Buy Organic,NON HIBRID seeds.
Plant lot’s of BEE attracting flowers and pee in and around your gardens.Free Nitrogen in that and helps keep critters away(preferably Male urine to keep pest’s away)more testosterone……..
With the organic movement came heirlooms. Sort of back to no chemicals or messing with nature. When I started with tomatoes I was told they had no disease resistance like the engineered ones to resist disease. But I thought and rightly. Wait these seeds have made it over 50 years or longer. The fittest ones have survived. These seed know how to resist because they have had the practice! They taste great and they give you lots of ego bursts. Brag on growing heirlooms. Your standing goes up. To each his own, you want to grow new discoveries great. I will try the old. good luck to all
Mary Machholz says
I believe the reason for wanting heirloom seeds is the fear of genetic altering. Many people don’t understand how changing genes works and fear Frankenstein fruit and vegetables. There are some horror stories floating around about bad side effects from this type of plant engineering.
Erik Weaver says
Regarding ethanol, and biodiesel for that matter, they are a viable fuel source. But the ecomonics of it is far from simple. Protroleum is used to make fertilzers, as well as fueling the tractors and other equipment, so as oil prices rise so do food prices. Plus we do not legally permit the use of the most efficient crops from which to obtain oil. Not to mention, our politics is controlled by industry, so the regulatory playing field is far from even.
But the easiest way to see that ethanol is a viable solution is to look at Brazil. They have something like the world 5th largest economy and they are running almost entirely on self-grown ethanol for their vehicles and transportation. That is a really big deal!
It obviously works. And the USA could do this if we had the desire. We do not. “Pay your money to big oil and shut up” is the world in which we live.
But this is the way it must be. At least so long as our politicians are financed by big business. (As the laughing through broken-hearted tears, joke goes: the least our politicians could do is wear sponsorship jackets like they do in racing. Then we’d at least know who owns them.)
Jim Campbell says
I am surprised at you. Isn’t it true that only heirloom seeds are not GMO. Monsanto; and others; have tampered with seeds to prevent them from producing produce that will not provide viable seeds for the next generation planting. Although hybrid seeds do produce a better product, they are sterile for reproducing. I for one intend to use heirloom seeds. My church has a very large garden and promotes being prepared. I have bought my heirloom seeds from them to plant when I move to the mission field. I will have to depend on the seeds that my produce provides to replenish my crop each year. Only heirloom seeds will provide me with that.
Erik Weaver says
In a word: Monsanto.
More specifically, the goal of Monsanto is for every plant on earth to be grown from their seed. And that is a day I hope we never see.
The “rage” about heirloom seed is in counter action to the militaristic tactics of large food corps like Monsanto, and the GMO products being forced down our gullets. Sadly, American politics/legal system is for sale, so we are one of the few developed countries which does not either outlaw GMOs outright, or require labeling.
Monsanto is well known to crush small farmers. The wind blows and pollinates yohur field with their undesirable (some say dangerous) plants, and *YOU* get sued into oblivion?!
That is why so many people are rather upset. And rightfully so in my opinion.
Lorraine Cook says
Hoping to spread the word about Monsanto, Bill Gates, our government, HAARP, morgellons and Chemtrails. Have you seen the 2 movies by michael murphy?
Always an interesting topic! I think some folks are getting hybrids, which include naturally occurring crosses, with GMO’s, which are manipulated at the DNA level. Anyway, I read an interesting essay in the latest wildgardenseeds catalog, and found it online here: http://crew.wildgardenseed.com/2013/02/01/holy-crap-you-can-patent-that/ . I also recommend reading just about anything by Steve Soloman, especially Gardening When it Counts. Read about him here – http://www.soilandhealth.org/05steve%27sfolder/05aboutmeindex.html
I like seeds from http://www.wildgardenseed.com/index.php , http://www.territorialseed.com/ , and http://www.seedsavers.org/ . I especially recommend finding the best organic seed you can find LOCAL to you. Seek out suppliers who understand your climate – the PNW is nothing like the NE growing area, etc.
Lee Walker says
The web site is my vocation, gardening is my avocation. I think Monsanto is an evil monster because it sues farmers who try to grow organically who wind up growing some of Monsanto hybrids because of cross pollination. Quite frankly I think Monsanto is polluting. If the farmers wanted hybrid varieties, they could buy them, they have to pay for heirloom seeds, or set aside product to withdraw their heirloom seeds. So yes, Monsanto is a polluter. We grew some Charleston Grey watermelons several years ago, and they were the best tasting melons ever. Silver Queen another heirloom is absolutely delicious. By the way GMO corn tested in the lab gave 100% of the mice cancer. Be careful, we do not eat canned corn for that reason.
Betty Raiford says
I’m just getting started with the heirloom seeds. Our daughter-in-love is convinced they are the only way to go and has started me looking that direction. I agree with the distrust of the hybrids because there has been so much going on in our world recently that has proven harmful to our environment. While I’m not on the bandwagon with the global warming people, I do realize that some of the ‘engineering’ we humans have been doing for years has had a negative impact on our world in many ways. I’m currently in the process of turning my backyard, and a good portion of my front yard into a fruit and vegetable growing bonanza for our family and to hopefully be able to share with some people who are less fortunate and cannot grow their own.
Some of you might want to look up the name of Washington Carver.
he was the person who was doing this hybridization ‘thing’ way back in the 1930’s long before the hybrids became popular in the 50’s.
Some seeds actually need to be frozen or heated. It just depends upon what the seeds are and where the species is from. Most of tehe African and Australian seeds need special preparation methods before they will propagate.
A great source for all sorts of seeds is to go to http://www.richters.com.
They carry one of the most divers collections of herbal and food seeds on the planet, their service is excellent and yes, i used to work for them. I’ve known the family for years and there isn’t anything they can’t source for you.
Calling them to speak personally is always best.
Their catalogue is a fund of information.
Rareseeds.com is the best site for heirloom seeds. Their catalog is a work of art. Check it out.
Erik Weaver says
Looks like a great site! And they have an outlet not too far away from me. Thanks for the link.
I always value your opinion and love your emails Mike, but you did not mention GMO. Most of us want all the Heirloom seeds we can get our hands on, because we are aware of Monsanto, Dupont and the others that are pushing GMO seeds. We DO NOT want these seeds in our environment, in our culture or in our gardens. They are not healthy, they are scary from ever aspect. So the more Heirloom seeds we can gather the better our gardens will grow.
Trudy Richardson says
I grew up in the country where lunch was often a fresh tomato straight out of the garden. I rarely find a tomato that tastes anything like that an it is usually in a local farmers market in the spring. My mother in law had a white cucumber that was so good and had been passed down in her family. Once I showed those cucumbers to a farmer at a local market and he wanted the seeds and I gave them to him. My saved seeds went missing and I have never had one like it again. They were sweet and the skins were so tender we just washed them and sliced them. They were amazing. I believe that for the sake of pretty we have bred the flavor our of our vegetables. Give me the old lop sided tomatoes and imperfect garden of the past and forget that junk they call tomatoes today!
John Jones says
I belong to a seed exchange, write to these people about seeds. “[email protected]”
Janet Limer says
Hello everyone, There is a group on Facebook that is informative and has some great ideals and places to look for Heirloom Seeds. It’s called (Seed Swap) You might want to check them out!!
Purchased my first heirloom seeds from My Patriot Supply. I started over 200 tomatoes from these seeds and they worked great although compared to all standard and hybrid seeds, heirloom seeds are VERY expensive. I have gardened before, but am just now getting serious. I prefer the NON-GMO heirloom seeds for all the reasons mentioned before.
What I find very annoying about the whole conversation is we now have to use terms like “ORGANIC” (which is illegal unless you hold a USDA “certification”)NON-GMO, HEIRLOOM, etc. What we are talking about is simply growing plants and animals for food the way our ancestors did. This is all because of Monsanto, and others like them who control a huge part of our food market. Of course the government is part of the whole mess with subsidies, etc. Short version is this, farmers are in the hip pocket of big govt. so they’ll keep quiet as long as they get their subsidies. If you don’t believe it just ask a corn farmer why he should get subsidies from the govt. for doing his job. Throw Monsanto in the mix and you’ll understand why. The point is the food we produce from “heirloom” seed are healthy, nutritious, and delicious. When was the last time you had a wal-mart tomato that did’nt taste like cardboard? Get yorself a vine ripened organic “beefsteak”, “Homestead”, “Abe Lincold”, or “Brandywine” and then you’ll know why the are infinately better.
Stewart Darrah says
The advantage of heirloom plants it that they were chosen over years for taste, not shipping ability. In the 19th century, Ireland and Northern Europe relied on heirloom varieties that lacked disease resistance, resulting in the “Irish Potato Famine”, when diseases hit.
Most commercial crops were bread for shipping qualities, flavor being incidental. Sort of like florist’s roses, they look good but lack scent.
Heirloom varieties on the other hand, were selected for their ability to grow in a limited area, for their preservation qualities, and for their taste.
Few of us grow the wild species, so a good compromise is to grow “improved’ heirloom varieties which have been selected from the heirloom varieties for their resistance to diseases, the spread of which are the result of modern agriculture, and which were not common when the original varieties were selected.
Mr. O W Douglas says
When I buy seeds I go to Tomato Fest.
600 varieties of (CCOF) certified organic heirloom tomato seeds.
Peace, Wayne says
by the way…the first part was a quote from Tinkabell
For me it is a matter of watching what’s going on in the world today. Monsanto now owns close to 80% of all seed companies and their goal is to own them all.
Combined that with the awakening to the truth and dangers of vaccines and you have a recipe for disaster. As seen in the link below:
Or do a google search for vaccine in banana-link below:
This is nothing new it has been going on for many years and they have no right to drug nor medicate the people of the world. Governments are not known for telling the truth or for being forthright.
And if GMO’s are so good then why are all the seeds being collected and stored in the government seed banks only original, heirloom seeds? Bill Gates, Monsanto, Warren Buffett and the Rockefeller foundation to name a few are storing over 3 million original seeds- link below:
google search below-
In the end it boils down to it being my responsibility to care for and see to the health and well being of my family and I can only do that if I know what is in the food I serve my family. I buy my seeds from Sustainable Seed Co. link below:
Thank you everyone UR Awesome Hugs Geri
Mr. O W Douglas says
It’s mostly about Mother Nature and Taste. But the unique color and shape make for a good presentation. I grow many tomatoes each year and op is a good thing when I find one that works well in my area I don’t need to buy seed I just save some. It is what the market place wants too.
Peace, Wayne says
Monsanto probably thinks they are doing something good for the future…Tinkabell, I disagree…I am almost positive that Monsanto thought it would put money in the bank!!!! Sad, but true!!! It awl revolves around the almighty dollar!!! Peace, Wayne
PS…I grow heirlooms!!!
Great information Deb Rebel. I’ve never tried a screen before.
Danny Owen says
I tend to agree with Iffitz. Heirlooms are fun to grow. I don’t think they are, necessarily better, but they are extremely important because we do not need to lose the genetics.
Thank Iffitz for a great explanation of the difference between hybrids and GMO’s. I can’t believe how many people don’t know the difference and equate the two instead.
I’ve grew six heirloom varieties of tomatos last summer and none of them were as tasty as the little hybrid cherry tomatos that volunteered. Heirloom also typically have to be picked differently – ie – slightly before true ripeness or they are overripe within a day. Many also have deep valleys or cracks that have to be cut away for canning or to eat raw. Overall, while I love being able to get what I think I’m getting when I plant, most hybrids revert to whatever plant in them was strongest. I’ve had some very interesting, good 2d generation hybrids just from letting volunteers grow. I do not and will not grow anything GMO. Franken-plants are not on my agenda and I believe strongly that they have contributed to the high rates of autism, cancer and other auto-immune diseases that have become so prevalent in the last 15 years or so.
Saving seeds is a great way to save money and enjoy the full process for growing food. I have been doing this for 3 years now with some success. In the kitchen I seperate seeds from very ripe fruit . I wipe them off gently with paper towel then put the in coffee filters that I label. Label with name, date, and variety. After a week I transfer them to brown paper bags and store in my shed . Don’t let them freeze or get over 100 degrees, I’m no scientist but seems to me freezing and sweating seeds is probably not a good idea. Two resources I I recommend in addition to Mike’s which is awesome . Certified Naturally Grown and Southern Exposure.
I am planting “Open Pollinated” and “Heirloom” tomatoes. Heirloom are older “Open Pollinated” varieties. Open pollinated tomatoes are true to the parent plant when crossed with the same plant. Most tomato plant flowers are very small and therefore pollinate themselves. The Potato leafed types have a larger and more open flower and can be pollinated by other potato leafed plants. Saving the seeds from the best plants with best fruit will allow for a person to over the years “develop” strains of the variety that have the best characteristics for your area and micro climate. That was why our ancestors were so diligent about saving and handing down the seeds from the plants that they grew for the future generations. Hybrid seeds are plants that were developed for growing everywhere. They may or may not be the best for your particular area.
Why heirloom seed? Does Monsanto ring a bell with the way that corporation has developed GE (genetically engineered) or more commonly called GMO seed and is trying to take over the food production of the whole world. Personally, I don’t want one red cent of my money supporting Monsanto through any of the seed companies that they have bought up so I purchase from seed companies that don’t deal with them. A good place to start finding seed suppliers that don’t deal with Monsanto is here:
http://www.hawkeshealth.net/community/showthread.php?t=9375 One of my favorite safe seed companies is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://www.rareseeds.com
Everyone should watch “Back to Eden” click on the movie link on the right
And plant some Stevia.
The GMO companies bought up a lot of the seed companies and have drastically reduced the available varieties.
I give away a lot of my produce and it is amazing how I will roll my bike up to people who have never had anything but a frankentomato grown in a greenhouse. Hand them over a dozen varieties to try. Every time they flag me down and ask for a particular type that they love. It’s like only eating 1 kind of Apple in your life.
The only problem is… I now have 19 varieties of Tomatoes… in a condo.
My husband says.. “At least the pots that you have got, will never get you busted”
I have found those clear underbed storage containers are excellent for starting plants in.
FROM WIKIPEDIA (Heirloom Plant)
Regardless of a person’s specific interpretation, most authorities agree that heirlooms, by definition, must be open-pollinated. They may also be open pollinated varieties that were bred and stabilized using classic breeding practices. While there are no genetically modified tomatoes available for commercial or home use, it is generally agreed that no genetically modified organisms can be considered heirloom cultivars. Another important point of discussion is that without the ongoing growing and storage of heirloom plants, the seed companies and the government will control all seed distribution. Most, if not all, hybrid plants, if regrown, will not be the same as the original hybrid plant, thus ensuring the dependency on seed distributors for future crops.
Typically, heirlooms have adapted over time to whatever climate and soil they have grown in. Due to their genetics, they are often resistant to local pests, diseases, and extremes of weather.
Deb Rebel says
are just a few I get seeds from. I also swap directly with a number of friends. I competition grow and a lot of us are into what I call ‘mostly organic’ and getting the best healthiest plants we can, to get the best yield; a number of lines have been hand picked and hand crossed to give the best genetics, choosing for biggest, heaviest, longest, etc.
i,myself see no harm in hybrid tomatoes. they are cross polinated with one or more tomato varieties to give us a better choice than just the heirlooms. i see no danger with this. i plant early girl, early girl improves, and ultimate opener all hybridized by the same person. i give a lot of them away and the people love the taste and they are among the earliest ripening.
Up until a few years ago, I always planted the standard hybrid tomatoes (better boy, early girl and a type of roma). Then I was encouraged to try heirloom “Brandywine” tomatos. WOW what a difference in taste!! Then next year I planted 10 varieties of heirloom and analyzed the results. I have narrowed them down to 5 different varieties but keep sampling new ones.
The first year I grew heirlooms I experienced a lot of blossom rot so I fixed the soil and no longer have that problem. One frustration with the heirlooms is their shoulders tend to stay green and crack. I recently read that some botanist discovered when removing the gene that causes this, they found the flavor was altered too. I am willing to put up with it for the much better flavor.
I have purchased seeds from Baker Creek, Heirloom Acres and Pinetree Seeds.
This is just my opinion, anything natural GOD given created is the ONLY way to go!
Hi Mike & Heirloom experts..great subject here..I have a question for those who KNOW about Heirloom seeds..how long can they be stored? I am looking at Years….and what is the BEST way to store them?
Also when saving them from plants/veggies what is the best way to clean and store them?
Please excuse the ignorance but where are the seeds say from: Romain, any lettuce, carrots, kale, and with cucumbers do you take the seeds from the cuke and dry them out?
Deb Rebel says
Lettuce will ‘bolt’ and put up a tall stalk that looks strange, that will ‘bloom’ and produce the seed. Carrots are a 2 year project to get seeds, they have to grow a second year to get their bloomstalks. Cukes will actually go yellow-orange to ‘mature’, let a few turn into monsters and turn color, then harvest, cut open, scoop out seeds and dry them. Lay them out on (I use old window screens, if seed is fine enough put down one of those old cheap curler scarves on top of screen to put them on) and first hour you have to turn/stir, and keep at it until they are totally dry, I often have to do a week (one hour for about 3-4 times, 1-2 times at 4 hours, then twice a day for a few days then once a day until dry). Once they are totally dry, I store in small ziplock type bags I get at a craft or hobby store, write on baggie with sharpie marker then fill, and put into a widemouth mason quart jar and lid it. Keep in cool dry place. Oh, when drying be careful, one mouse can decimate your efforts.
If I get or buy seeds, if they have not been put in ‘lifelock’ or otherwise sealed in for long storage, I will immediately put the seed into a small ziplock that fits inside the envelope OR put the whole envelope into same… oxygen and light deteriorate your seeds… As I mentioned I have had some seeds make it over 10 years, though the germ rate has dropped. Most seeds I can hold for 5-6 years with no problems, then some need to be grown just to get fresh stock.
Hi Deb I did a search for a carrot Bloom Stalk and found this site, in the second picture with the flower, is that where the seeds are that I would collect?
Deb Rebel says
Yes that is a forming carrot bloom.
Mr. O W Douglas says
I had success with seed that were 10 years old and just the opposite with some that were only a year old. It’s all about harvesting technique and storage.
Rod Crane says
It depends on the type of seed. There are published lists of how long seeds are viable. The extension service probably has the information.
Diana Curry says
Hi Mike first thank you for your emails I enjoy each and every one. I am answering as you mention having seeds from antique plants. I was just blessed by being given several seeds for Hopi Pale Grey Squash from a lady called Jackie Clay who also has a blog under her name and she writes for a magazine called Backwoods Home. She is of native american ancestry as are the seeds for this squash. She is trying to get people to grow it who will keep it true as it almost died out. What a shame it would have been to loose this magnifcent silver blue squash.For Heirlooms try Seeds of Change. The are awsome!
I’m a little older than Mike and grew up on a very small farm, where we only had about 3 acres for crops. We always had plenty of vegetables for the nine of us, plus our small farm animals. We also had enough to supply relatives with food from our garden.
We had a wood burning pot belly stove in the living room that heated the house as well as a kitchen stove, both used wood and coal. The ashes plus horse manure, coffee grounds, and food remnants we nor the animals could eat was used as a fertilizer along with dishwater.
We practiced proper farming by rotating where the crops were planted as well as ‘Using the best seeds’ from harvested to improve the crops. Every crop produced lots of high quality veggies that were not just shells.
Please cut open a GMO and an heirloom tomato and the difference is very obvious.
Yes, the veggies from those seeds were better for you and contained lots of proper nutritional elements.
We rarely had any store bought candies except at holidays. Most of our sweet items were jams and jellies, plus cakes and cookies, and honey all from our little farm.
Our table was always full of food at every meal including milk and butter from the farm, don’t know how mom was able to cook it all, and we ate great — but never gained weight or had to visit the doctor.
At 18 years of age I was 6’2″ and weighed 160lbs and had only been to the doctor twice in my life, once for a broken wrist and once for a medical to play sports. Even today my blood pressure is 120 over 80 and I don’t see a doctor nor have I ever been in a hospital except for cuts.
My wife and I started a little 4′ by 4′ garden last year all with heirloom seeds, we harvested cheery tomatoes and peppers until mid November. This year we are trying something new called “Square Foot Gardening” to grow more diversity.
We have lots of heirloom seeds and are willing to sell or trade for others, just contact us.
We compost our lawn cuttings and we don’t use any man made fertilizers, just what I learned all those years ago.
Mike you can give our email to anyone that wants to trade or buy seeds
Chris Reid says
I just want most people want: the ability to choose the seeds I prefer and transparency.
Frank, my wife and I have had really good success with square foot gardening, from the clay in PA and Virginia to the sand and stones in northern Michigan, you regulate how much you want and keep the weeds and bugs under control. There is no limit of what you can grown. Last year we started a vertical garden and will improve on the technique this year.
I get my heirloom seeds from http://www.rareseeds.com
What a great company!
Batya Morris says
A couple of key points were touched on, but a couple of big ones were left out. Monsanto is one of the biggest seed producers in the world. From my understanding, they have genetically modified seeds so that the seeds from their plants won’t reproduce. I’ve tested this myself several times with the seeds from store-bought, non-heirloom fruits and veggies. NOT ONE of them sprouted, much less grew. Monsanto is a powerful political force as well and has used it’s power to create serious legal problems for commercial farmers who use their own seeds rather than Monsanto’s. In essence, they are developing the power to take over the food supply of the world. Literally.
In addition, they are eliminating plant diversity by stealthily putting their seeds in the gardens of heirloom growers in some way that weakens the strains of veggies (like the many kinds of Mexican corn) that have been around for centuries. Just ask the Mexican corn farmers. Or the soy farmers in the USA and Canada.
Among others (available in many public libraries), there is a set of DVDs called THE GMO TRILOGY, which includes Unnatural Selection, Hidden Dangers in Kid’s Meals; and You’re Eating WHAT?, that discuss the impact of GM crops and animals, it’s impact on the nutritional value of food, and the industry’s manipulative techniques. I’m sure there’s tons more online.
And they taste better. And they don’t look like they’re, shall we say, ‘off the rack’? And if you’re survival oriented, it’s the only way to go.
I wish heirloom seeds would grow in my backyard. I’ve spent over $6,000 the last 7 years for 126 species of heirloom cuttings and seeds but only 5 grew. The hybrids grow just fine, first time and every time. After the second year, the 5 heirloom seeds did not grow again. I live in Zone 6 on clay soil. I’ve read many gardening books and attended a course at the Royal Botanical Gardens, but still no luck with heirlooms.
Deb Rebel says
Theresa, I feel for you, I am in a zone 6b and microclimate of ‘drought’ with soil that if not amended literally can be used for adobe brickmaking. I can get tomatoes over a pound but it takes work… soil tests and amending; shielding from our predominant 25mph average winds (40mph not uncommon); afternoon shade for about 4 hours; watering to create a temperature moderating environment to combat single digit humidity…and 90f or better. I have heirlooms that produce, but I have to hand bag and qtip pollenate to get them to breed true. If I let the bees do the work the seeds often do not work. This year I had 10 seeds left of some 1999 era pink brandywine that have been just totally delicioius and I got two to come up. I will be hand setting seed fruit from these plants to keep them breeding true….
Rod Crane says
Most vegetable garden plants only have a chance of doing well in full sun. A lot of organic material added to the soil works wonders and then water when the soil dries out. You probably know all that. I have been gardening a long time; first in NY and then in NJ and now in NEPA. Not all of the crops are a success every year. If other gardeners in the area are growing a particular crop with success you probably can too. E.G. Blueberries grow wild here because soil conditions and weather conditions are ideal. So a lot of the gardens here have cultivated blueberries. Our summers are too cool for watermelons and I have never had success with them. Start out with vegetables that do well in your area. If you have too much wind, put up a wind break.
Bear in mind that there is a HUGE difference between HYBRID seed and GMO seed.
HYBRIDIZING is a human-assist to the natural pollination process between like-specie parents to create a offspring with (hopefull) the best attributes of both. The seed of the hybrid-offspring do not usually breed true.
GMOs are made by circumventing the natural process and artificially combining the DNA of UNLIKE species to introduce an aspect not normally available in the species naturally. They are usually not created by pollination, but in a laboratory. SOME GMO seeds are fertile – which causes a problem when they naturally pollinate neighboring non-GMO plants and contribute the foreign species DNA to the next generation of the naboring non-GMO crop.
Because GMOs are patented, the patent holder (e.g. Monsanto) can sue for any unlicensed production of the plant – – even if produced by the action of nature.
The problem is that patent law has not kept up with the ingenuity of scientists. The technology industry is so enthralled with whether they CAN do the next big thing, it is not taking the time to fully review whether it SHOULD. No one is overseeing the industry and making it account for long term effects of GMOs on the environment or people.
GMOs and mono-culture farming have the potential for destroying the security of our food production. The great Irish potato famine was not caused by just the blight that killed the crop, but also by the stupidity of the farmers who planted mono-cultures that were ALL susceptible to the same diseases. The French wine industry was almost wiped out because most vintners grafted from the same limited range of root-stocks (thank the nematode-resistant American wild grape – – a plant many consider a weed – – for your next glass of French wine).
The PRIME benefit of planting heirlooms (and saving/swapping) seed stock is to insure we have untainted genetic materials (seed) from which to restore plant/food crop integrity after Monsanto and its ilk destroy our food industry with their frankenfood hubris.
Plant Goddess says
Excellent explanation of GMO/hybrid differences!
Great paragraph I agree 1000 %
Exactly my thoughts!
Jamie Shafer says
You nailed it! Best reasonably short explanation of the whole controversy. I am sending to a friend in New York City who did not understand what the excitement is concerning GMO. I am sending your comments to her – she will get it because she is bright but just has not ever been a gardener.
Charline Jolly says
Well, the URL didn’t come through. Let’s try again.
Charline Jolly says
Hi Susan. I have been buying heirloom seeds from Renee’s Gardens (take a look at their great web site)
This year I planted Marvel Stripe bicolor tomato, Brandywine tomato, Russian Purple that I got from a neighbor,Arugula from last year’s seed, Paris Market mix lettuce, Collard GReens, and lots of flower seeds. We salvaged some windows from a neighbor who was putting in double pane and cobbled together a greenhouse. Here in California we don’t need heat, just a little protection from the frost and the greedy squirrels!
When humans practice this is it called FINAL SOLUTION?
Sara, my point was that both the farmers and Monsanto et al are wasting money…it is stupid…little will be solved and the lawyers will get rich. That doesn’t help ANY OF US. Like many things, these days, there are many rumors, scare tactics and politicized groups/people out there. With all the instant communication…everyone jumps on board the idea that suits “their” position or thoughts. We need to take a deep breath on many issues these days and try to resolve issues with some common sense. I am not sure who started the whole GMO wars but just MAYBE if both sides had sat down in the beginning they would both have been able to have what they want and not made lawyers rich. Monsanto probably thinks they are doing something good for the future…the farmers think they are not…neither will probably ever agree but how they get what they want and how each can exist without feeding the coffers of the lawyers would be a way to start negotiations. After a while it may be found, with time, that GMO is not the panacea that it is thought to be and will die out on it’s own…Monsanto being a huge international corp will survive…the farmers probably will not…would it not have been wiser to find a way for both to do what they need/want with out all the money wasted on lawyers?
Sandy Trank says
I agree with you! Let both side produce their product and let the people decide!The old idea of supply and demand still works and will work perfectly if the people are educated on what food actually is. Some wouldn’t recognize anything unless it came from a box! All the produce we have in our markets are GMO’s in winter so if you want real food you have to grow it yourself. Saving seed is critical now as I believe as was already posted that we won’t be able to grow food at some point and that is the reason for “plastic” food. It looks good but it sure tastes awful!
Lacy Thompson Jr says
I think another big factor is the increase in the number of “preppers” who see dependency upon an external system to provide something as critical to survival as seeds for food as a dependency that should be eliminated. Hybrids, unless you “roll your own” make you dependent upon an external supplier.
I buy heirloom seeds because they taste better – especially tomatoes. Some heirloom seeds may not be as disease-resistant as hybrid seeds, but I will take taste any day. I am not completely against hybrids, although they take more resources to produce than open pollinated seeds. Also many hybrids are produced off-shore and I don’t trust their production methods. I buy seeds from companies that refuse to buy from companies that produce GMO seeds or specialize in heirloom seeds. I also like to offer lots of variety to my farmers market customers, and find that heirloom seeds offer that variety. It is not difficult to find good heirloom or open-pollinated seeds that do well in one’s area. Examples: Marketmore cucumbers, Big Jim or Joe E. Parker green chile, lots of onion varieties. Offering heirloom products to my customers fits in with my overall holistic, organic, chemical-free growing philosophy.
Suzanne Brown says
Your question was “Heirloom Seeds, are they Really Better?”
That may not be the right question. If we use seeds or plants with a patent it is illegal to save the seeds and plant them or divide the plants to make more. If one spends years to develop a plant with specific traits, I understand the desire to patent and market. The rise in interest in heirloom seeds is in keeping more varieties available to gardeners and farmers. As seed companies are purchased the new owners can limit the diversity they offer. I plant a very small garden and have been able to find a good selection of non hybrid and hybrid seeds. I do not knowingly plant GM seeds.
Might the day come when our choices are limited to patented only seeds and plants? I think that is the concern.
I have to agree with you on this point. The same thing is happening within the nursery industry. All new plant intros are patented, old non patented plants are being kicked to the curb. I encourage our Backyard Growers to find and keep these old favorites and beautiful plants in the market. http://freeplants.com/wanted.htm
Mike, you might keep this in mind……everything government is involved in has either failed or created another agency to correct what the previous one didn’t do right. Those ‘big’ producers and growers of the hybrids and GMO’s? Everyone one of them has ‘big government’ in their back pockets, if not on their payrolls!
Remember where the ‘KILLER BEES’ originated? And how about all of those foreign species brought into an area to eradicate a ‘native’ pest? Now those are more of a threat than the original pests!
One of the biggest things with Heirloom seeds right now is the possibility of losing those favorite varieties. Seed companies are being bought up left and right leaving only a few “giant” seed companies or monopolies to dictate what seeds we can save and grow. People are pitching in to keep the diversity of seeds alive, help eliminate the food monopolies, in addition to the added taste and nutritional value from growing Heirloom seeds.
I did a test at the Farmer’s Market last year and had hybrid tomatoes and Heirloom tomatoes side by side for sale. If people had tasted Heirloom tomatoes before, they went for them first. If they had not tasted Heirlooms before, they went after the uniformity and what they had been “educated” (ie: marketed to) was the best tomato because of how it looked. I would offer to give them free of charge a Heirloom tomato to try. 100% came back and said the taste was far superior to the “perfect looking” tomatoes.
I have to agree, the taste, diversity of varieties available, adaptation to your local environment, and the fact you can save seed for the next year is what makes Heirloom seeds so attractive. You can get a variety of Non-GMO, Heirloom seeds at http://shop.valsgardenplants.com/heirloom-non-gmo-seeds/
I don’t trust the Chemists to put out anything good. There was a potato for instance was modified to kill the potato bug so now when you eat your mashed potato, it is mashed insecticide. What is that going to do to MY body in the long run. I think the result of all this is the higher rate of cancer. And some illness’s the doctors don’t know how to treat. I’m staying with heirloom.
I now prefer heirloom plants and seeds. About 20 years ago I used to plant and eat hybrids but they really do lack the smell (and taste) of heirlooms. Hybrids are easier to grow early on but in the end the heirloom plants seem to hold up better to the end of the season. I have also made the mistake of saving seeds from hybrid plants and planting them the next year. What grew from those seeds was AWFUL or came up spindly or not at all. When I saw what the descendants of the hybrids looked like I started planting heirloom seeds. It’s really a shame that now it actually costs more money to obtain seeds that have NOT been tampered with. It seems as if Big Agri pulled a fast one on an uninformed public that was just too trusting and naive.
Jo Ann Carey says
I am very much in favor of using heirloom seeds. They cost about the same as hybrid seeds, and I can depend on them for always getting good plants the 2nd, 3rd, etc. time around. I can save the seeds and pass them down to my kids and they can do the same. I don’t have to worry about genetically modified veggies on my table when I grow my own from heirloom seeds. They belong in everyone’s emergency kit. I only have to buy a favorite variety once, and then I have it. I just think they are more environmentally responsible than hybrids. Of course you can’t beat the flavor, either.
There are MANY Reasons a gardener should ONLY grow Organic Heirloom Seeds.
#1 Without Organic heirloom Seed…there would be NO FOOD…Period! Hybrids require 2 Heirloom varieties to make it…just as it takes 2 parents to make a child that has some characteristics of the parents…but not exactly identical. All FOOD on the Planet starts with Heirlooms.
#2 Only Heirloom varieties can be acclimated to the climate they are grown in. When a gardener saves their seed from generation to generation from the same plant and starts their seed and grows them on in the conditions of their climate…that seed starts to become either hardier (for Northern growers) or more heat tolerant (for southern growers)
#3 Only Organic Heirloom Seed is Sustainable…meaning it can be saved and will continue to produce the same IDENTICAL Seed/fruit year after year as it has not been genetically manipulated to form and grow as a ‘Franken-seed’. Planting GMO or hybrid Seed is a ONE TIME SHOT…you grow is one season and it’s life is over…your done! No MORE FOOD from that plant. With an heirloom…it can be saved year after year after year for as long as the world exists. What does this mean? This means that a gardener/grower does not have to spend $100’s of $$$ buying new seed to plant their crops and the world will have a continuous supply of food at $0 Monetary investment in seed.
#4 Organic Heirloom Seed is healthier and tastes MUCH better than GMO or hybrid seed. Because Heirlooms have no chemicals injected into them…they have no negative effects on a persons health. Our bodies are not capable of assimulating Chemicals…and neither are plants. When a seed is injected with harmful and/or poisonous chemicals, it does not ‘recognize’ how to process the pure nutritious nutrients that are available in the soil. Neither does an Heirloom plant ‘recognize’ how to process the chemicals put into the soil.
If you took a human being and dunked them in Gasoline…would they know how to drink or process that? Of course not! That Human being would be poisoned and eventually DIE! But yet, this is what our industry has done with Hybrid seed along with the applications of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
When a gardener incorporates the proper ‘Organic Material’ That an Organic Heirloom Seed ‘recognizes’…not only does that plant produce TONS more of fruit…it also naturally tastes better. The old saying goes “You Are What You Eat”…the same is true for plants. Grow them and feed them what they ‘Naturally Feed On’ just as you would give a child Mothers Milk to drink when they are babies. Plants are babies too and need to be treated as such. When you nurture your plants in this way, you Nurture yourself as well and will experience better health, free of ailments and disease. It is only by either negligence, or being uneducated or uninformed that gardeners and producers alike continue to grow with Chemically raised hybrid seed.
#5 Growing Organic Heirloom Seed is safer the the environment and eco-system. Consider this…ONE OF EVERY THREE BITES OF FOOD YOU EAT DEPENDS ON THE HONEY BEE! Insects play an important role in pollinating our ‘baby plants’…without them as well…we would have no food. When a Gardener plants Chemically raised Hybrid plants…the bees are then consuming ‘foreign chemicals’ their little bodies do not know how to assimulate or ingest. Chemically raised and sprayed plants are the BIGGEST Reason our bee population is dieing off in the Millions! When we kill our BEES by using ‘Chemical’ gardening practices…we Kill ourselves!
CONCLUSION: Growing Hybrid Seed will sooner or later annihilate the Human race (and all insects we depend on to pollinate it, especially GMO Hybrid seed)…Organic Heirloom Seed WILL NOT! Which will you choose? Living or dieing?
As our Farm, half of our crops are raised for Seed saving in which we are able to not only have enough seed to plant again the following year (at no monetary cost to us), but also enough seed to package over 25,000 packets of seed for sale to the public with another 8,000 pkts being donated to families who cannot otherwise afford this seed to help feed their families and become sustainable. Now that’s what I call ALOT of reasons to grow Organic Heirloom Seed! the benefits will last for generations to come!
Amen. Especially appreciate your comment on the bees–which of course apply to all the other pollinators, too. How many of us consider that, because we’re not nuts about (or are afraid of) bugs, we annhilate our pollinators, too; then gripe about lack of production in our gardens. Duh.
I prefer heirloom seeds because I have found they taste better even perform better. The first year I planted heirloom Purple Cherokee tomatoes I also planted better boy, beefsteak hybrids and some number named plum tomatoes. The Purple Cherokee tasted so much better the difference was noticeable. Since then I plant only heirloom in my garden. I am lucky we have one nursery that uses heirloom seeds for starter plants. It is fun to plant seeds that you can save and it is fun to plant things that are not hybrid or inoculated with chemicals.
Conrad LeBeau says
Increasingly, people want not only heirloom seeds but organic products as well. The public has developed a healthy distrust of many big corporate products including many processed foods. People want to know what someone did or fooled around with products before they buy them. Are there pesticides in the fruits and vegetables you buy and will they cause illness over time? There are several reasons why people want heirloom seeds, vegetables and fruits. Another concern is about harmful health effects from genetically modified organisms (foods) called “GMO” for short. Big corporations genetically modified corn and soybeans and a few other species to make them resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup. Roundup is a herbicide. It kills weeds. Do you want to eat a small amount of Roundup herbicide on your dinner salad? How about your cornflakes? Is it safe for humans to eats substances that poison plants? [Remember – Monsanto gave us agent orange during the Vietnam war.] A key Monsanto employee, Michael Taylor, now works at the food division of the US. Food and Drug administration. His influence has prevented the FDA from requiring GMO foods to being labeled as “genetically modified.” Recent scientific studies with GMO corn and Roundup herbicide show it causes massive tumors to grow in laboratory rats. What about you and children? Will they get cancer also from eating GMO foods and herbicides? For more info go to keephopealive.org or seedsofdeception.com or organicconsumersfund.org Thanks for listening Conrad
You Are So Right, this is the BIG reason to be aware and concerned about the difference of the seeds. Genetically modified (GMO) must be avoided at all costs as much as possible. Hopefully, it is not too late for the lot of us. Thank you for your very well stated points/facts. Thanks for the web sites. I had not heard of several. I will check them out. You deserve the prize of the month if Mike is giving one out this month~!. EVERYONE HERE… be sure to research it for yourself if you have not already.
Thanks Mike and Thanks Conrad Good Topic
E M says
Has anyone tried the tomato plants where an heirloom is grafted to root that is resistant to some of the diseases that attack heirlooms?
Grafting an heirloom tomato cutting onto the stem of a hybrid (resistant to whatever you want it resistant to) is easy. The tomatoes you harvest will still be heirloom tomatoes.
I have grafted different varieties of tomatoes together as one plant (an experiment at the university), we grew beefsteak or beefeater on the bottom half of the plant, and cherry tomatoes on the top of the plant… It was easy, and it worked.
victor hundt says
The big deal about heirloom seeds is simple. Many people are afraid off our “new Government” and want heirloom seeds for a continual F1 source of food. I certainly share the concern about the mismanaged Government and feel that there is a need for being prepared for the worst, however, I have had so many issues and failures with heirloom seeds that I have gone back to hybrids most of which have a two year life while still in the package.
I agree with Amy on the front of GMOs. There are too many varieties of food that have been genetically modified and then in return have adverse reactions in the consumers (human and non) and the plant’s environment. These types of ‘hybrids’ are what SHOULD be avoided.
The big boom in heirloom seed I feel is due to the population’s awakening of what’s being done to their food. Heirlooms provide us with a safe alternative for growing our own foods the way we see fit. I also feel that the preservation of heirlooms is an act to preserve history and culture as their name suggests.
Heirloom varieties most importantly provide variety. They allow you to have extensive biodiversity in your garden. They provide an immense color, flavor, and nutrition range. They’re sustainable. Finally, they’re just absolutely fun! A great way to try new food which seems endless, even though we’ve lost a majority of heirloom seed.
My absolute favorite provider of heirloom seed is Seed Savers Exchange located in Decorah, IA. http://www.seedsavers.org
They are a magnificent company that offers, in addition to their catalog, a year book of people around the country who will offer saved seed at cost or trade.
We also buy from Baker Creek Seed Co. http://www.rareseeds.com
and Territorial Seed Co. http://www.territorialseed.com
Pete Rose says
Was Golden Bantum corn any better than that the original inhabitant tribes of North/South America used? I think it was.
I think one reason we are going back to heirloom seeds is to have control over what we grow and eat. We do not support the GMO movement.
Wes Wright says
I suspect that a lot of the difference in hybrids and GMO’s is the ability to be picked early and shipped (long?) distances and still ‘look’ good. I doubt if this improves the taste or texture of the produce in the process. Where I grew up the nearest town that had more than a ‘general store’ was 80 miles away so we grew everything we ate except staples like wheat flour, coffee, sugar, salt, etc.
We saved seeds from everything we grew including field corn (from which crop we ground for cornmeal). In the early ’50s to early 60’s there were a lot of hybrids but we couldn’t afford them. Now I have come to realize that even the honeybees can’t use them because the ‘double’ flowers either don’t produce the pollen and nectar or the bees can’t reach it. Lots of unintended consequences to what we intend to ‘improve’ including some that take a long time to come to light. I’m all for progress, I just think we don’t always know for sure what progress really looks like.
William von Rentzell says
Oops…forgot…www.seedsavers.org is an excellent source for heirloom variety seeds. They are my sole source for veggie seeds for the last few years.
Ralph Kluh says
Simpely put taste taste taste. So many hybrid vegies have no flavor especially tomatoes.
The thing about hybrids is that you cannot guarantee you will get the same plant from seeds you save from a fruit/vegetable harvested. If you grow heirlooms, the seeds within should provide you next year with the same variety. Big seed companies then can get you to buy seeds when you need more because you won’t be able to replicate what you wanted from what you planted previously. I do find heirlooms a bit trickier to grow but they are worth it. I find they are very tasty.
Just really started planting and enjoying heirloom tomatoes a few years ago. At first I was not impressed until I found the kind I really liked. You cannot eat a better, flavorable tomato than a Cherakee Purple or Mortgage Lifter. I do grow hybrid Roma tomatoes and occasionally cherry tomatoes, but they have a life of their own!!
You might want to try “Matt’s Wild Cherry” and heirloom variety of cherry tomatoes that have the best, most intense flavor I’ve ever found in a cherry tomato.
William von Rentzell says
Heirlooms serve many needs, both of the grower /eater and society in general, supporting on-going sustainability of the food supply. Even hybrid seed producers need them for the varieties to start with to produce the hybrid seed. Many of the characteristics they bear forward may become more critical to human survival in the future. As to flavor, it directly relates to nutritional value. The more complex the flavor, usually the more varied the mix of nutrients provided by the vegetable in question. Usually growers who perpetuate heirloom varieties also employ organic growing techniques which tend to provide the plants with a better balance of nutrients from which the plant can impart better nutritional value and better flavor to the fruits.
Another issue about Hybrids, someone holds a patent on the plant. Heirlooms cannot be patented since they are as nature produced them. If you propatate their patented plants or use seed from Hybrid’s, you could be held liable for royalties. Not that I’ve heard of that happening yet but have read about big Agri-businesses ya never know what they may try to pull.
Heirloom, open-pollination seeds are becoming very popular due to Genetically Modified Seeds and crops becoming rampant in our food. GMO crops and seeds are invading and taking over our natural, open-pollination heirloom seeds. Monsanto is working on”terminal” seeds that don’t reproduce anymore seeds, they are preventing farmers from saving their seeds and more. GMO crops have many bad consequences for our food and health and are banned in many countries (and Europe) for this reason. I highly recommend watching the following documentaries, which you can find on line for free or just a few dollars:
1) The Future of Food
2) Genetic Roulette
You can also read more about it on the website of “The Institute of Responsible Technology”
I was going to recommend that eyeryone watch the documentary ” The future of food ” also Tony it is a well done documentary. This documentary not only exposes Monsanto’s gorrilla tactics, but how they are in bed with our own EPA that is suppose to be protecting the US citizen from harm. If you all never watch another documentary at least spend the 40 or 50 min it takes to watch this one then make your own decision. I’m personally a lot more worried about this than I am somebody else in another country my government labels as a terrorist. Glance at the left hand every now and then when the right hand is begging for your attention. Exposed Nam vet.
I try and buy nothing but heirloom seed, like you say they are tough plants, however, aside from that and taste, this country is being sold down the preverbable river, A man said one time, your food will be your money, if all you have is hybrid seed, you are sure enough under big brothers thumb, you will only be able to plant an grow whatever the govn’t allows you to, and nothing if he so desires, saving hybred seed is useless bvecause when planted the next year, they wont produce, this isn’t rocket science, it is called opening the eye’s and seeing what the gov’t is doing and preparing yourself.
thats my simple opinion
sunflower acres says
I totally agree with Samuel. Nothing but heirloom seeds is worth planting. We need to preserve them and save them for future generations, if we want them to eat real food … and avoid health problems. Don’t give in to hybrids.
The only heirloom seeds that I buy are for the vegetable cardoon or cardone. This is a veggie that my parents made every Thanksgiving. My mom used to be able to buy them in the then available veggie stores located on every corner in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, NY. No more veggie stores, no more cardoon. I was so happy to find the seeds and am now able to grow my own and continue the Thanksgiving tradition that my parents did.
Robert Mooney says
I tried Heirloom Tomatoes last season and I was very disappointed in that I got big plants but only one tomato from each plant, they were about the size of tennis balls. I used the same type of compost I always do, ifact every thing was the same. the beestates I normally grow out pro duces enough we can them.
Kelly Jenkins says
I started growing heirloom Tomatoe’s in 1971. Mortgage Lifters,Rutgers and Marions but didn’t know they were heirloom untilabout 6 years ago. About 10 years ago I got some seeds from Eastern Kentuckey that my friends family had been growing, saving seeds and planting for 200 years. They have no particular names just Big Red, Yellow Stripe, and Yellow. They are wonderful and taste great and produce well.
Baker Seed Co sells good heirloom seeds all types.
I’m using heirloom seeds because they can be gathered and sold by any grower. I’m very concerned with the power that Monsanto and other large companies have and don’t want them to control all the seeds. I’m also using organic seeds as much as possible since I’m growing with organic methods and will sell the produce at the local farmer’s market.
Kathie Swan says
Hi Mike, besides knowing that I will get what I plant, unlike planting the seeds from hybrids I planted a season or two ago; the fact that Monsanto and Bayer and other mega-corps. are trying to buy up heirloom seeds and putting organic farmers out of business by falsely claiming that the farmers are using their (Monsanto) seed, and the only way to prove it is to spray the farmers fields w/roundup. Gee if it dies, it must not be Monsanto seed, sorry your field can’t be classified as organic for another 10 yrs now.
Susan, Seed Savers Exchange is a great source of heirloom seeds.
Mike, there certainly are some great hybrid tomatoes out there. But there are also many that are bred to look pretty, last long and ship well. They have lousy taste. I grow mostly heirloom varieties which are often mis-shapen with thin delicate skin. But the taste is out of this world!
Lewis Leake says
I try to use heirloom garden seeds when I can. They seem to be hardier and produce longer that hybrid seeds.
Here is where you can find heirloom seeds:
There are a lot more. Just google “heirloom seeds”
Al Simpkins says
Mike, We have been buying seed from Tomato Growers Supply Co. in Florida for 3 years now and they carry a large amount of Hybrid seed and some from other countries oeigin
Folks can check them out at http://www.tomatogrowers.com
We have had good luck with them.
Al and Gary
thanks for the web site on tomatoes. i really enjoy raising tomatoes and trying different varities.
Tomato Growers Supply, Vermont Bean and Seed have been bought out by one of the GMO Seed Companies and many of the Heirlooms they used to have have been removed from the market. Last year (2011)Dupont and Monsanto bought out 40 small heirloom seed companies.
By the way did you know they call the gene that takes over in the plant “Terminator”.
James Ian Whiteside says
Hiya Mike, can I first say how much I have enjoyed (and benefited) from following your stuff over the years (yep, its been years now) and if I was in the USA I’d have been in touch with you, no doubt!
One of the things I’ve done with the military (and now after retirement in the corporate arena) is Survival Instructor. The USA is much further advanced/organised in terms of ‘prepping’ for disaster than the UK is and in my research there about prepping I frequently find reference to heirloom seeds. My understanding of a preppers preference for heirloom seeds is 1/ to take the stock back (as far as possible) to (perhaps) before any manmade faults. This also leads onto 2/ The idea that things from before manmade interference may be ‘stronger’.
As a a psychologist I would think that this idea comes from the discovery that interbreeding in animals has produced weaknesses but I am certain that you will have the knowledge as to the facts of this in reference to plants. I’ll be keeping an eye and hope to reference you on my website and elsewhere I am active on this.
Anyway Mike, again my ongoing appreciation.
John Chapman says
Besides the advantages you have already mentioned for Heirloom(or Heritage seeds as we call them in my part of the UK)seeds. There is one other benefit for the home gardener,that is the plants do not grow to maturity at the exact same time.I need one cauliflower today not ten!F1 Hybrids tend to be like peas in a pod and do not ‘stand’ as long as our traditional plants.
Keep the newsletter coming,
I’ve been growing Heirloom tomato and pepper plants for several years. When I first started growing them I just grew one or two plants. I didn’t want to put all of my eggs in one basket and wind up with no tomatoes or peppers. After a few years of this I started noticing that no one was eating the hybrids, prefering instead to eat the heirlooms. Now, for tomatoes at least, heirlooms are all I grow. I just seems that hybrid tomatoes don’t have the outstanding taste that heirlooms do. I think they expend too much effort on production, marketability, and looks. I guess you can’t have everything but I’ll take taste and variety over uniform looks, shapes and roadability any day.
Personally, I’m not particularly interested in heirloom vegetables. However, in my search to create a very fragrance oriented garden, I find that many hybrids sacrifice fragrance for color. Also, there are fragrant flowers that I cannot find for sale at all. Just last week, I finally found a place on line that sells mignonette seeds, for example. Also, old style violets. Big win, in my opinion, for my needs.
Amy Robillard says
I think the first thing in many minds is the current tampering with life forms, called GMOs. Thus far, the only certainty has been the creation of super-weeds.
Secondly, flavor has again become important since most of life races by at breakneck speed these days. The few pleasures left in life must be paid attention to and savoured. Hybrids have been “hybrid-ized” until they are picture-perfect appearance-wise and about as tasty as a sheet of newsprint. The tasty old originals (and some of the original hybrids) that don’t give as great a yield but every fruit is worth eating plus the fact that you CAN save some seed have reminded people that newer isn’t always better and the costs must be thought of. Seed now costs several dollars per pkt. and there are very few seeds in each pkt. Just my opinions, I hope they are of some worth to you.
I just wish the lawyers for both Monsanto etc and the farmers would all go away. Now each side is suing to stop the other from their crops “WIND” pollinating the “organic” plants and the “organic” plants “stealing” the pollen from the GMO plants…what a horrid waste of money and energy. I just don’t understand, even if both these groups have an agenda…why they couldn’t work this out between them and make it work for everyone. It’s like ethanol…what a joke. Ethanol has almost destroyed the corn market. Have any others here noticed their animal feed prices lately. They have settled a little right now but last summer mine went up around 30%. I have 50+ chickens, 2 goats and a horse. I now have to spend around $100 a week for food. Just because the government “thought” they could make synthetic fuel cheaper than using good old oil. BTW anyone had their mower, chainsaw or generator die lately? Thank ethanol for that too.
Sorry to get on my soap box but sometimes the less we mess with things…the better off we are. At least when we see it isn’t working STOP!
Monsanto spends billions in lobbying and marketing and suing organic even conventional farmers while the organic market struggles and does not have the billions to do the same. I for one support the organic farming movement and suing for wind pollination is another I can support. example Roundup Ready alfalfa. doesn’t need to be rr, it is a perennial and shades itself yet if a farmer plants an organic or even conventional alfalfa and the field becomes cross pollinated they lose their organic status and are sued by Monsanto to boot for growing their product.
Sandra Fackler says
I agree Sara. Monsanto is a very predatory corporation, trying to patent all sorts of veggies so that they can make everyone buy from them. Their produce is sterile, a big red flag, so new seed must be purchased every year. And this wind pollinated BS is just that. Nobody can control the wind. I will not buy any meat from animals fed corn, nor will I buy anything but organic corn to eat myself. Let them make all the GMO corn into ethanol if they want to, it’s not fit to eat for people or animals.
I agree 100%! The good old fashioned way , in my opinion, has always been the best. one thing to think about too, cancer has risen like crazy over the years. Agent orange that the govt. has been spraying our corn with for over 17yrs is the same agent orange used in Vietnam. It was proven to be what caused my dads prostate, double lung, throat and brain cancer, he was a pilot in Vietnam, he dropped the agent orange. So, in my own opinion the more we can do to go natural God made the better.
ACE hardware carries a product to put in small engines to keep the ethanol from turning into varnish. I am sure there are also other places that carry something similar.
Some Valero stations carry gas that has no ethanol, so that might be an option if it is available in your area. Here, it is abt a nickel higher per gallon.It is probably cost effective to pay the diff as opposed to having a repair bill.
If your vehicles are older than 10 years, DON’T EVER PUT ETHANOL IN THE TANK! Only SOME of the newer engines are designed to run sufficiently on it! It will destroy older engines and those not designed to use it!
As for the taste of fruits and vegetables, think HARVEST TIME! Large grower/exporters pick it before it ripens so that it will be ‘nearly’ ripe once put on the market. Vegetables and fruits need to VINE RIPEN to be at their flavor peak. They can ONLY do that if the sugars obtained from the plant are allowed to reach the produce. Picking them too soon will short circuit the process. Melons are a great example of that!
You’re right. We should be able to reason together and solve problems. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people want to win much more than they want to be fair or find peace. Monsanto will continue to push their agenda, regardless of socials costs and human consequence (in India and starving and committing suicide because they are no longer allowed to farm and use their own seed less they “steal” Monsanto’s magnificent GMO seed that cross pollinates with the seed they’ve been using on family farms, crop after crop for hundreds of years). Evil is what happens when good men do nothing.
Please don’t mistake those who fight for what’s right as trouble makers. They’re guardian angels. Unless we fight, our world will look very different very soon. We can always dream of a better world but it’s dangerous mistake to tell ourselves we live in one.
I agree with you 100%. Superweeds. I think the heirloom flowers, etc., are more true to what I remember as a child. They have a special quality you can’t really find now days.
I can only tell you why I choose heirlooms over anything else. I grow what we eat. I don’t trust chemists or scientists to create better seeds that won’t have any harmful effects later in life. Who knows perhaps the bio-engineered hybrid seeds are perfectly healthy, but I, personally, don’t trust them. The only way to guarantee that I am getting seeds I know to be good is to buy seeds I know. I can handle bugs and infestations with other natural methods, as I grow an organic garden. It isn’t really organic if I don’t begin with organic true to plant seeds. Well not to me anyways. If I want to stay natural I have to use all natural methods, and that begins with the seeds. Besides, saving my seeds for next year is half the fun for me.
I’m still learning but everything Danelle says is what sounds right to me. I collect my flowers seeds and they grow then I plant them. I want to do the same with some vegetables.
Some of my thoughts on the Heirloom Seed Issue.
They were and can be saved and traded-no expense. There are places now that have set up on-line trading of the Heirloom Seeds for just the cost of postage to send.
They are being used as “barter” for other items of need.
They do grow true and do taste better. They have a flavor to them that Hybrid produce does not. There are mail order catalogs now devoting pages to these “old” varieties. I think that in the canning/freezing process they produce a better and longer lasting product for all of the efforts that go into the preserving of them.
The Federal Government passed a bill in January of 2010 or 2011 that made having, growing, possessing of Heirloom seeds a felony. Was to be overseena nd regulated by the Homeland Security. THere has been a few repoted casses of seisure of such. There was a large number of homesteaders that opposed this and the bill was temporarly tabled. It also allowed Homeland Security to come on your property and “seize” other assists and materials. I have not kept up with the bill so do not know what the present state of it is. Thoughts were it was all being backed by the large GMO companies, not to specifically name any. Which some of them, by the way, are into producing their own hybrid seeds for sale. Small mom and pop seed companies have been threatened and bought out to reduce the number of Heirloom Seeds available out there.
“The Federal Government passed a bill in January of 2010 or 2011 that made having, growing, possessing of Heirloom seeds a felony.”???
This is absolute nonsense.
1) How do you “table” a bill that has already been passed?
2) You haven’t kept up with the bill?
I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you can prove it passed and exists!
Can I get the $100 if I supply you with the detailed references on this ?
Miriam Iverson says
My understanding is that some people believe that if we depend on just hybrid vegetables, eventually seed companies could hold a total corner on the seed market and they theoretically could charge any amount of money that they choose for the seeds. I read a futuristic novel not too long ago where that exact scenario was created and seeds cost as much money as gold.
Johnny’s Seeds has a lot of heirloom seeds. There is also a web site called “Winter Sown” that is a seed exchange. You can get 6 pkgs of heirloom seeds for free, but then if you have others you send them for the exchange.
If you want to know the reason heirloom seeds are in such demand, all you have to do is look at what the big food corporations are doing to our foods with GMOs.
When you cannot determine from the label whether your seeds come from a genetically modified source, you want seeds that existed prior to the frankenfoods.
Bill, good luck with the blueberries. I have tried to get cuttings going and haven’t been very successful. I think Mike’s aquarium trick for starting plants might be your best bet. It has worked great for me starting lots of bay trees. My blueberries always tend to jump start their leaf production and the roots rarely catch up and they wear themselves out. I love doing the grapes from cuttings because they are so rewarding and simple. But I do wish I had more success with the blueberries.
Mike, I think one of the attractions of heirloom seeds is some of us are so cheap we don’t want to buy seeds every year. Another attraction is the self sufficiency of it. We aren’t dependent on seeds being available.
I will be growing both heirloom and hybrid this year and can report when there are results. Some of the heirloom
tomatoes have tough skins. (Buy them at Farmers’ Markets to test). In contrast, one of the most flavorful tomatoes I’ve ever tasted was one of the purple/black ones/
I saved slices of tomatoes from purchased heirlooms to
test this year. Only one sample survived an inquiry of
my bored border collie. That slice had four seeds: they
all sprouted and are waiting for warmer weather in my
little plastic green house. I surveyed farmers (on Vashon Island & elsewhere) for favorite tomatoes for flavor: — Brandywine won that competition. It is indeterminate, however, so I recommend vigorous trimming
so that it spends its energy ripening at a “determined”
time, and no more energy into new flowers or fruit.
(This is for short season locations)
Tried a heirloom tomato last year. It did produce very late and never ripened.hence no seeds.
I only grow heirlooms now. I previously tried a few hybrids, but didn’t like not being able to save my seeds, so you have to buy new seeds or plants every year. When you grow a big garden, that’s a pretty steep bill.
Also, I love the variety available! I grow about 60-80 tomato plants per year, in orange, red, yellow, gold, purple, pink, & white. I have all shapes & sizes, plus cherry tomatoes galore – each one with a rich, full flavor, but every type just a bit different. I like the connection to the history of where these seeds came from, who else grew them, etc.
I also don’t want a scientist in some lab deciding what traits they want to put in my food. Hybrid is one step toward monkeying with that, but GMO? Hold on, that’s a whole different ballgame and I’m not playing! Inserting insecticide that will grow in the fruit or vegetable so the bugs won’t eat it? Well, if the bugs don’t want it any more, I think we should pay attention to them!! Messing with a seed so the whole field can be sprayed with RoundUp and the veggie lives? Um, if we aren’t even supposed to touch RoundUp with bare skin, why on earth would we eat food that’s been sprayed with it?
I’m on the bandwagon with heirloom seeds, and I hope you will be, too.
I like what you’ve shared, but I do have a question that you might help me with. At this point in time, as I search for Heirloom tomato seeds, I’m fortunate to find more than one type… where are you finding so many variety of Heirloom tomato seeds under one roof?
Mike Walker says
I believe the attraction of heirloom seeds often relates to people’s desire to be independent. While a gardener could produce hybrid plants with considerable knowledge and effort, it is generally not practical for the average gardener. So rather than depend upon the professional seed sellers, independent minded people seek the freedom of being self-sufficient. Perhaps there is a sinister suspicion that it would be possible for the powers-that-be to control our lives if they control the means of producing our food. Also, I think a lot of people are not focused so much on heirloom plants as they are on self-pollinating plants. Often these are heirloom plants but that label is not critical. The independent-minded gardener may not care about whether a plant has been around for a century but often he cares that the plant will breed true to type and that by saving seeds one can plan on a sustaining garden from year to year, independent of the nation’s transportation infrastructure and the commercial seed sources.
Dorette South Africa says
Hi from Pretoria, South Africa! I came across some bean seed called Yard Long. I successfully grew four plants and the beans taste better, fresher than anything! I’ve harvested some at 60cm. So impressed!
i am in Mutare-Zimbabwe (east of the country bordering Mozambique). I grew black beans from Cuba and tasted really nice. Would love to exchange a few seeds with yours. Interested?
I’m pretty new to all of this but when I was looking into what seeds to start I got the impression that heirloom seeds help preserve varietal of fruits and veggies that have become rare due to the selective breeding of the factory farming process. I like the idea of growing something rare that might not ship well but is still really delicious. Plus I feel like I’m doing making a difference in the preservation of a species at the same time as opposing Monsanto.
Yes Clinton, this is how I have always interpreted heirloom seeds. Simply to preserve older varieties for future generations and to prevent globalised control of seed selections to a small handful of large companies.
After all variety is the spice of life.
I think some people mix up the terms hybrid and GMO.
No one is confused over GMO or hybrid seed. Some people, like Mike, have not caught on to the fact that we are killing ourselves with engineered seeds. Hybrids are developed to ship better, look better and produce better at a cost of quality of nutrients. GMO seed is genetically modified to cause cancer in host animal and to pass deviant genes down to the next one that eats it. You may have heard different, but the cancer you get from eating that stuff tells me different.
Your belief system is different than mine, that’s why it seems to you people get things mixed up.
I do not eat corn anymore, nor soy, never buy foods with corn syrup or artificial sweeteners and just this year am growing my own Heirloom veggies.
Making things more difficult, all the manure around here is heavily medicated by commercial farms.
Actually, MANY people are confused by the 2 terms.
I would venture to say if you asked 100 people on the street, 95 of them could not accurately define both hybrid and GMO.
Those of us who grow know, but the average person doesn’t have a clue and doesn’t really care since they don’t know what they are missing.
my daughters 2 pet rabbits, in 1 years time, produce twice the manure i can use and the unused half just goes into the compost bin. i do have a small garden, but each rabbit easily produces 50-75 gallons of manure a year. it seems to work better than chicken, steer, or horse manure for me and i dont have to worry that the farmer i got the fresh manure from didnt just worm his livestock. rabbit manure is also what i feed my wormbed.
Rabbit manure is great! will not burn a seedling planted in pure fresh manure (berries). (We had up to 2000 rabbits at any one given time a few yrs ago.) so you can imagine the berries that we had! Dried, bagged and sold for $8.50 a bag to rose and gardening enthusiests! I sun dry it and then sort of pulverize it a little with my gloved hands or a shovel and sprinkle it around my veggies thru out the growing season. Gives my veggies that extra boost!
Take care and happy gardening!
Anne Bryant says
I sell seed for a living. There are many varieties available that are heirloom as well as untreated. I believe that if you will go to your local feed store or farm supply, you’ll find all sorts of seed that meets your requirement.
As for the medicated feed that you worry about. There are many feeds that are not medicated. Usually you only find meds in calf or chick starter, possibly range meal.
Where do I find Heirloom vegetable seeds?
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at rareseeds.com They have an amazing selection and it’s a family run business. Wonderful people to deal with, too.
Susan, one great company is Southern Exposure in Mineral VA. They are very good and have a HUGE variety. There are many other companies out there today that offer heirloom seeds.
I have used these companys and they are good companies. seedsavers.org is my favorite, rareseeds.com heirloomseeds.com
Johnny’s selected seeds has a pretty good selection. Google them. Their catalog is fun to read, too.
I love to use Johnny’s Seeds are they are employee owned. Their catalog is great to read. They have excellent service. I usually buy rye seed to grow as a winter cover crop for our garden. Seeds in bulk such as rye seed is a wonderful option.
Judy Marquette says
Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a great variety of Heirloom seeds.
There are several different heirloom seed places like Seed Savers Exchange, Fedco Seeds, Native Seed Search, I do not trust the companies that have not signed the safe seed pledge so I do not use the major ones like Ferry Morse, Parks and Burpee even though they have started adding Heirloom to their catalogs.
My family and I love Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company. We also like Seed Savers Exchange.
I love seed savers. http://www.seedsavers.org/
Check out their upcoming events.
I believe that we should eat foods that have been produced and grown in the area where we live. It just makes sense to consume fresh, wholesome, seasonal foods within the area where we live and if the foods come from heirloom varieties, we are eating a non doctored, purer form of that food. If we eat honey from our area to evade seasonal allergies, its the same principal. I stay away from strawberries in November, I live in California but those strawberries come from somewhere else.
Patriot Seed Supply has an awesome offer! Well worth checking into, I LOVE mine!
You can find heirlooms at seed savers exchange, botanical interests, seeds of change… There are many more however these are the catalogues i buy mine from. There are lots of varieties to choose from, gorgeous colors and flavors to tantalize all your sences and make gardening seem like an act of magic for little kids.
Ann Bloom says
I love Landrethseeds.com and their catalogs is beautiful.
I order heirloom peppers and tomatoes each year and start a number of flats in my basement under grow lights. I sell the plants in the spring. The catalogs I generally order from are Baker Creek (interesting start up history by one young man in his teens and since has a little town, festivals, tourists, etc.) I also purchase from Seed Savers Exchange and recently Fedco, a popular East Coast site. Hope this helps! Happy gardening!
You might try Baker Creek Heirloom seeds at http://rareseeds.com/.
We live not too far from them and they have some great seeds.
I use Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. (rareseeds.com), have been for a few years now. They have BEEEAUTIFUL catalogs too! They’re nice to deal with.
Sandy Trank says
Heirloom seeds are labeled as such in a seed display at Wegman’s grocery stores in NY. I don’t know where you are but if I can’t find Heirloom in the garden sections at a local nursery, I just don’t buy. There is a lot of “manipulation” as Mike says and I just don’t like the idea period. What God created was good and that’s what I prefer! I have grown winter squash that was to die for and I also noticed they keep well. I did cook, processor them and double pack them in freezer bags and Zero frost and just as yellow orange as the day I cooked them and delicious. Go hybrid you won’t be disappointed!
Seed savers for on. also google heirloom seeds,ect for along list. Read discreptions on some companies as they have both. Goodluck.
Hudson Valley Seed Library
They also have the most beautiful seed packages as they hire artists to make them.
Another company with great and informative packaging
sunflower acres says
A great source for heirloom seeds and even survival seed packs~http://www.orchardhouseheirlooms.com, owned by a great guy, Steve, and honest too. His wife likes to buy my natural products.
rareseeds.com. It’s the website for Baker Creek Seed company. I’ve ordered from them for three years running and will again and again. They have an incredible catalog you can get off the website.
Baker Creek – rareseeds.com – is my favorite although there are others on the net. Baker Creek was accurate with my order & quick with delivery. They have a beautiful catalog or order online.
Heirloom Tomatoes .com is a great place. Family run and after you become a customer they send free seeds and have great sales.
try the seed swop in back woods home mag. you can find all kinds of heirloom seeds thear
Try GranniesHeirloomseeds.com, good prices, excellent variety. I’m now getting tomatoes on last years plants! Same with broccoli and cauliflower plants!
Hi Mike. I enjoy reading your letters. We still have probably 3 feet of snow on the ground here in Northern ,MN so it is hard to think planting yet! You mentioned that with heirloom seeds you get plants that are true to their parent plant. What about saving seeds from the hybrid plants? I have not had too much luck saving the seeds from my garden and having them produce plants when I plant them the next spring. Do some hybrids just not grow? Thanks, naomi
When you save seeds from a hybrid plant you will not get a plant true to the parent plant because the parent plant was grown through cross intentional cross pollination and that won’t transfer to the off spring as you would like it to.
For many people, the real interest in Heirloom seeds is not necessarily to avoid hybrids, but to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Just like the convenient microwave that emits carcinogens from plastic containers, the GMO plants are a health hazard when our bodies try to digest the genetically engineered vegetables. Some of these GMOs produce pesticides or herbicides right from the plant tissue. The worst part is that congress has exempted them from product labeling. Just check around to see how many countries have banned the GMO plants from their soils, and why.
Couldn’t have said it any better Arthur. In fact I have been trying to explain to a friend who works with another local farmer. Neither have any idea, the difference between heirloom, hybrid, and GMO,,,So I have spent the last 2 days trying to educate.
I am on the look out for heirlooms myself,,,as I can’t afford seeds,,,so been trying to educate ppl on the difference,,,and how important to buy only heirloom,,,hybrid, as last resort. But to avoid GMO at all cost!!!!
Mike, LOVE your newletters and info!!!!
Try GranniesHeirloomseeds.com, good prices, excellent variety. I’m now getting tomatoes on last years plants! Same with broccoli and cauliflower plants!
Mike I think people are so interested in heirloom varieties because they are just different, something new. There so many different types to choose from and some are quite unique. Everyone wants to have that “special” tomato no one else has. Because I think most not all don’t produce that great (some are the opposite). But it’s just fun to grow a “black orange or white tomato”. That’s your answer FUN!
They are not genetically modified.
Steve White says
Carol you are so right, Monstano wants to own all seed, tey alredy control soybean and some corns.
I think you made a spelling mistake in the company name. It should be ‘MonSatan’.
Bill Lauer says
I have 250 blueberry cuttings in the basement in a bucket of sand hoping on getting some rooting going on there. Still very interested in growing plants could not afford the payments for the program maybe soon keep sending me emails do you have any emails about growing vegetables? Im using a mix of coffee grounds, alpaca manure, topsoil, goat manure and mulch for my 2000 sq ft garden this year hope it works, i have 7 yards of coffee grounds saved up so far.
Your blog is inspiring. I am looking for non gmo blueberry trees. I was just about to buy some from farm in New Jersey when I came a across a blog that stated he scammed people, overcharged them, and I did talk to a rude customer service rep. Saved by an angel of truth. Dr. Mercola sates that non gmo blueberry plants are 48% more beneficial than the hybrid blueberries. My blueberries are not doing well in my garden. They are barely surviving. Do you know where I can truly get good non gmo blueberries. I live zone 3 Toronto, Ontario, Canada
vt beagle says
more then likly your soil condition is the problem must be rich , moist and acid. Get coffee grounds, pine needles,oak leaves and work that into your soil.
Elmore Roots Wolcott Vermont (about 50 miles from Canadian border). They grow there own, no GMO and this in Northern Vermont so they are winter hardy
Sarah Corson says
What is your soil ph? Blueberries need acid soil! Here in Alabama they grow everywhere great because our soil is so acid.