Heirloom Seeds (+ Video)
Instant Organic Garden has teamed up with Seed Savers Exchange to provide heirloom seeds to our customers. These heirloom seeds have been selected from their extensive catalog for flavor and growing characteristics, but have also been selected based on uniqueness – whether it’s appearance, flavor, or a particular seed’s rich history. The list will be updated and changed periodically based on each plant’s performance and client feedback.
You can go through the list and order full heirloom seeds packets for delivery to your home by mail. This is for Seed Savers heirloom seeds only, no transplants, crowns or bulbs.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds or our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save heirloom seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.
Seed Savers Exchange was founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, to honor this tradition. Their heirloom seeds collection started when Diane’s terminally-ill grandfather gave them the heirloom seeds of two garden plants, Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory and German Pink Tomato, that his parents brought from Bavaria when they immigrated to St. Lucas, Iowa in the 1870s.
More than 23 acres of certified organic gardens are on public display at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Each Summer 10% of each crop is planted on a 10-year rotation to renew the heirloom seeds collection. Few gardeners will ever see such stunning genetic diversity. Visitors are welcome at Heritage Farm from April through December. Open Weekdays 9 to 5 and Weekends 10 to 5.
What is a heirloom seeds variety and why should I grow it?
Heirlooms seeds that are passed down within families of gardeners from generation to generation. If you want variety, superior flavor, unusual colors and shapes and unique histories, heirloom seeds gardening is a wonderful alternative to growing the F1 hybrids featured predominately by many large seed companies. Most home gardeners and grower don’t need tomatoes with skins tough enough to withstand cross-country shipment, or potatoes that will pass the McDonald’s uniformity test. Since the 1940s the hybrids have been the most marketed varieties to home gardeners. Choices grew increasingly smaller as the seed companies discarded those varieties that did not fit the factory farm, monoculture mold.
Although the old time heirloom seeds varieties were worthy of continuing, many were dropped by seed companies in favor of the hybrids and gradually home garden growers couldn’t get the same tomatoes and peppers they remembered from childhood. An entire generation grew up believing that all tomatoes were red, round and identical in taste. However, heirloom seed gardening is putting an end to that myth! There are thousands of different tomato varieties, and although some are red and round there are many others with incredibly complex flavors and a virtual rainbow of colors!
Many heirloom seeds varieties can be recognized by their names as having folk origins. These gems were often grown by generations of families, ethnic enclaves and communities and are usually found in isolated and mountainous regions. Frequently they took the name of their ethnic origins, as in Zapotec Ribbed and Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Sometimes they were named after the family or person who bred them or made them available to other gardeners such as Grandpa Admire’s lettuce and Chet’s Italian red garlic. Some got their name from unusual physical traits, examples being True Lemon cucumber and Red Velvet lettuce. The Aconcagua Pepper was named after Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, where it originated.
If you aren’t already convinced that you want to try growing heirloom seeds, another one of their desirable traits is that the ripening process is staggered, which means you home garden get produce that ripens on an ongoing basis. Many hybrids were bred to ripen at the same time, which optimized mechanical harvesting. This trait is a disadvantage for the home gardener who might want to pick ripe tomatoes over a period of weeks, not days.
As a home gardener, you can make a difference simply by growing heirloom seeds and helping to keep the genetic reservoir well stocked for future generations. Imagine a home garden seed catalog with two or three tomato varieties – all red, round and similar in taste. What a dull world it would be without variety!