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What Are Heirloom Seeds?

Heirloom seeds are open pollinated crops with a history and a story passing throughout generations, like heirloom jewelry or furniture. Open pollinated seeds retain the characteristics of their parent plants and thus allow gardeners and farmers to conserve their own seeds.

Varieties of heirloom seeds were grown worldwide in diversified growth conditions. Over thousands of years plants were selected by farmers for their suitability based on the conditions surrounding them. The results made the plants resistant to drought, pests, diseases and extreme weather. Plants were also selected for their improved aesthetics, such as taste and size. Humans bred open pollinated varieties throughout our agricultural history. Seeds were transferred from generation to generation throughout the world, making for a wide range of varieties that are the link to our cultural heritage.

Defining Open-Pollinated, Heirloom, Hybrid and GMOs.

Open pollinated seeds

Open pollinated seeds (Heritage Seeds are inside) are genetically stable. Considered pure seed generated as a result of self-fertilization of pure species. pollinated by insects, birds, wind, or other natural mechanisms. Because there are fewer restrictions on the flow of pollen among individuals, large populations of open-pollinated plants tend to be more genetically diverse. This in turn can allow individuals in the population to more readily adapt to local growing conditions. Pollination for open pollinated varieties allow for seeds conservation,  the seed produced will remain true-to-type year after year. Maintaining the main characteristics of the parent plant.

Heirloom plants

Heirloom plants must be open pollinated (but not all OP plants are considered heirlooms). Heirloom seeds have a history of being passed down within a family or community. The nonprofit Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) defines heirlooms as cultivars that have been saved and shared by generations of home gardeners.

Hybrid seeds

ֿHybrid seeds (F1) created as a result of cross-fertilization through a controlled method of pollination, in which the pollen of one species or cultivar is transferred by human intervention to fertilize the flowers of another species or cultivar. Commercial hybridization is done to deliberately create desirable traits in the resulting plant. The first F1 generation will usually grow better and have higher yield than the parent plant do to hybrid dominant genes. However, seeds produced from a F1 hybrid plant should not be saved unless you are looking to create a new cultivars.  F2 generation are not considered true and pure species. Therefore, gardeners who use hybrid plant cultivars must develop or purchase new seed every season to produce plants that exhibit the same characteristics.