Local Llano - Experience Your Food Shed

Heirlooms of Spring

Posted by Lauren Canale on February 1, 2016

Spring time is right around the corner and the time to plan your garden is now. This spring consider Heirloom seeds in you garden rotation. Heirloom plants have a reputation for being high quality and easy to maintain. But what are heirloom vegetables? How do these seeds and plants differ from any other garden-variety green? 

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AGE

Many plant experts consider heirloom seeds to be seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation, as far back as 1951 and older. These seeds are usually native to the region from which generations have lived or have historically done with the regional climate after being introduced a little less than a century ago. There are only a handful of plants that are considered to be heirlooms that have had easy transitions from region to region and reached a wide range of commercial success. Does this mean that these seeds have to be old enough to register for AARP before they can be considered heirlooms and planted? Absolutely not, this will be explained in the pollination process.

OPEN POLLINATION

Open pollination just means that there will be no surprises. Open pollinated plants look identical to their “parent plants” and the pollination process is simple. Heirlooms are always openly pollinated and will grow back true to type. As long as the seeds are saved properly, you can always plant and replant heirlooms. Below is a simple guide to seed saving that will work for most vegetables (tomatoes are a longer more finicky process).

Simple Seed Saving:

(will vary from produce to produce)

  1. wait until plants have matured and ripened (typically towards the end of a harvest season)

  2. cut open your produce and examine your seeds

  3. remove seeds from produce

  4. clean and wash seeds

  5. dry the seeds to the best of your ability

  6. leave the on a ceramic or glass plate to dry

  7. spread the seeds out in a thin, single layer

  8. it is important that the seeds dry in a non-humid, shaded place

  9. mix and turn every now and again

  10. seeds should be completely dried in a day or two

  11. package the seeds for next spring

QUALITY

This is the best answer for ‘why heirloom’. Heirlooms main attraction is flavor! In a world full of hybrid mashups and human manipulation, many gardeners crave the taste of real unadulterated produce and heirlooms are their saving grace. Heirlooms appeal to an audience that prefers quality substance over looks and quantity.

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Here is a local producer, Wolf Creek Farms, that sells heirloom seeds. Keep heirlooms in mind this spring season!