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Another Great Reason to Grow Heirlooms

April 9th, 2011

About 95% of the edible vegetables in my garden are grown from heirloom open pollinated seeds. I enjoy growing them because of the history behind them. It’s nice to know that generations of gardeners have grown the same things in their gardens. One of the best reasons to grow heirlooms is because you can save the seeds. You do have to take precautions from cross pollination with some varieties, but with a little planning it’s quite easy. I save seeds from a lot of the varieties of tomatoes that I grow. Saving seeds from the plants that thrive in your garden is a great way to develop plants that do well in your area.

I have some arugula that survived the winter and figured these particular plants were the hardiest ones since they survived when others didn’t. I’ll let this go to seed and plant them again this coming fall. I should have better survival rate than this past winter because the seed was saved from these hardy plants. Next spring I’ll once again save seed from the surviving plants and eventually I should have a hardy arugula that will do really well in my particular climate and soil.

I also have some celery that survived the winter and I’m hoping it will go to seed so I can get a hardier version of it as well. This is one of the many reasons to grow heirlooms! Sure they sometimes don’t produce as abundantly as their younger hybrid versions, but what’s wrong with that? I sure don’t want to be replaced with a younger, faster model when I get old. More isn’t always better!

Do you save seed from any of the heirlooms you grow? Have you ever worked to develop a desirable trait in a plant by saving seed and replanting over several years?

13 Comments to “Another Great Reason to Grow Heirlooms”
  1. Sandy on April 9, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I’m just starting to learn to save seeds. The seeds we have most saved are beans as I think they are the easiest. Our favorite is a small red bean that my mother-in-law brought us from El Salvador. It is not a been you find much in the states and while it may not have started as a heirloom (or maybe it is considered one), it has become one for us. Would love to hear more about letting celery go to seed as it develops. I think that is the biggest thing for me figuring how to let some plants go to seed.


    Reply to Sandy's comment

    • Susy on April 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Some plants like onions, celery, and carrots are biennial. That means that they will set seed during the second year. I’ve never been able to get a celery to overwinter before (at least of the variety I’m growing) so I’m hoping it will go to see this year, since it’s the second year for this plant, so I can save some seed.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Daedre Craig on April 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Your arugula may be hardy, but does it taste good? I find the “tougher” plants tend to be excessively spicy and not as delicate in texture.

    Arugula grow so quickly, do you really need a hardy/perennial version?

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

    • Susy on April 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

      It is spicy (which is how I like mine). The younger leaves are really tender, the older ones are bit tough – but perfect for pesto or wilted on a grilled sandwich.

      Since it’s my favorite green, I would like to have a more hardy version of arugula so I can eat it late in the fall & earlier in the spring and possible some throughout the winter.

      I actually purchased seeds for a few other varieties of hardy arugula to see how they do in the cold winters here.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Amy on April 9, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I tried heirloom tomatoes for the first time last year – several varieties – but unfortunately it was a terrible year for tomatoes and I didn’t get ANY fruit. (It was a terrible year for all warm weather crops.) I’m going to try again this year because I so crave a hearty, tasty tomato to eat fresh. I am planning to try using a small hoop house for protection and a little extra warmth. Do you know whether I might have any trouble with cross-pollination doing that?

    Reply to Amy's comment

    • Susy on April 9, 2011 at 10:39 am

      Tomatoes can cross pollinate, but I usually don’t bother bagging & pollinating blooms and I’ve always had great luck getting true seed. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Lynda on April 9, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I love saving seed…it can be a challenge. My husband and sons’ are commercial seed growers…but I’m a gardener that saves seeds. This year I will be saving more than I have in the past…I did some seed sharing this year and enjoyed it. I’m growing 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and 15 different peppers. I’ve saved broccoli, cauliflower, beet and chard seeds already.

    Reply to Lynda's comment

  5. MAYBELLINE on April 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Heirloom tomatoes for me. My favorite variety is Al Kuffa. It came from Iraq and is tremendously suitable for zone 8-9 in Bakersfield, CA.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

    • Susy on April 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      I’ve heard of that one. Isn’t it amazing that there are tomato varieties from all around the world!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Vegetable Garden Cook on April 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    My white russian kale was such a rockstar in my garden (survived happily through all the freezes) that I am going to grow the seed.

    Reply to Vegetable Garden Cook's comment

  7. Sandy on April 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Seed saving is on my list of things to do once down the road. I love the idea of saving the strongest plants and eventually have seed stock that is very appropriate for my specific climate.

    Reply to Sandy's comment

  8. Melanie G on April 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I have never personally grown heirlooms, but my great-grandfather spent many years developing a variety known in my family as Hollen Tomatoes (Hollen being the family name). My grandfather and then my uncle continued saving these seeds and growing these huge (HUGE), meaty, mild tomatoes that are perfect to simply eat straight-up.

    My mom started planting some of my uncle’s seeds in the last few years, and last year and this year my sister has planted them. I’m really excited because we just moved to a new apartment that has a yard and I can have a garden! Hollen tomatoes are at the top of my list for my first kitchen garden :-)

    Reply to Melanie G's comment

    • Susy on April 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Now that’s a true family heirloom – how wonderful that family member have continued to save seeds. Hopefully this continues for generations!

      Reply to Susy's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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