Monday, December 29, 2008

Why heirloom seeds for your garden and table?

A visitor from Aussieland prompted this post by sharing with me that over in Australia, one can save seeds from fruits and vegetables they buy from the store. Makes me almost want to live in Australia!

Commercially grown fruits and veges are generally a hybrid of some type and sometimes even GMO(genetically modified organism). Creating a hybrid tomato that stays ripe without bruising or rotting during it's voyage from California to New York is only profitable when you're the company getting paid. Skins like vinyl, pulp with no taste. But it stays red and firm so you can buy it!

The development of hybrid seed has left seed production to seed companies for the practical reason that it is the most economical way to maintain appropriate inbred lines, and seed production can be isolated from the food production areas of open pollinating crops. But it had also prevented farmers from saving and replanting seeds, making it necessary to purchase seeds every season.

So, if you want to grow anything, you MUST PAY. Who do you pay you ask? Big Agribusiness like Monsanto, of course. Biotechnology has gone a step further and demanded that seed production be restricted to companies even when there is no rational basis for the restriction, other than corporate greed. Hybrids and GM crops lack the diversity required for sustainability in the complex ecosystems of the developing world. What is needed is seed production that takes into account the unique requirements of developing countries, where the farmers rights to save, replant and exchange seeds are integral to food sovereignty and food security. We are already losing that ability here as companies such as Monsanto have bought up seed companies and cornered seed markets around the world.

Ah, you say, but what about F1 hybrids? They make superior, uniform plants that produce spectacular crops of produce. Yes, for that one generation. Saving the seed from your harvest will give you mixed results of both the parent plants of which both might be inferior producers. so, back to buying your seeds every year defeating the purpose.

So, how do you know if the seeds you're buying are heirloom or hybrid? Good reputable seed companies still independantly owned have no qualms about saying up front that their seeds are heirloom or hybrid. There are still very good varieties of plants out there you can buy easily.

Speaking of which, my Johnnys Seed Catalog just came in! Off to gawk at all the pretty pictures!


  1. anon in aus again, glad to be of some use. modern supermarket tomatoes are basically a write-off, same with many apple types, most corn is useless for seed, and on it goes.

    salad sprouts in punnets can be replanted for your own seed supply, all it takes is an unused corner and a little compost. many root vegies, i have found, will set true to type seed. planting mature onion bulbs will set a nice batch of fresh seed. turnips, carrots, parsnips will nearly always set fresh seed if planted in the ground in spring. i leave a few brassicas ie cabbage in the garden to supply seed as they quickly go to seed in spring.

    dried pulse mixes will often set good seed crops, as will many types of poppy seed - if that sort of thing floats yer boat, they are mainly a byproduct of medicinal production and even if some brands are irradiated there will be many brands that aren't. the penalties for daring to grow your own pain relief are steep so caution is advised if u try that, also casual use is not advised, not preaching just found out the hard way years ago.

    currently growing many types and varieties of vegies and fruit trees and berries in an effort to see which ones are viable climate-wise (some heritage apples can be zapped by frost while another type next to it is unaffected) and economically. i'll stop waffling now, the tequila beckons.

  2. drink sorted, i'll add some more. it's cold here for most of the year so coffee plants are a non starter. imv self reliance is the solution for now and the harder times ahead. with that in mind some years back we purchased a farm in a bid to earn/spend less and live a little better. we run several types of chickens and ducks, also guineas, geese and a peacock. goats, cats, dogs too. kangaroos and rabbits and wombats run themselves in the paddocks and deer drop in from the adjoining forestry land.

    there's a house orchard with many types of trees and a bigger orchard in progress now for the heritage apples, quinces, plums, pears, and soon nashis(japanese pears). many types of berries too, mainly for mother stocks so i can eventually sell the plants, fruit is a bonus. some trees struggle with frost ie figs, mulberries, etc but we have a few types of each and they manage.

    ignore the lack of capitals, i don't use 'em much. just on commercial seed, apart from a lack of viability some seed companies are obviously unaware that open pollinated varieties should not be grown together as i've often put in a large bed of something only to have it grow into an unrecognisable hybrid that only the goats think is a good outcome.


Comments always welcome