What is an Heirloom seed anyway?

Author: Adam Boddy   Date Posted: 3 May 2013 

Recently we have had a lot of customers asking us if our seeds are heirloom.  The answer to this question is not as simple as you might think.  Its not really a question we can answer with a definitive YES or NO.  Even when discussing one single variety, what exactly are you asking us, do you know what an Heirloom seed actually is?

 

The truth is that there is a fair amount of debate over what the term heirloom in relation to seed actually means but lets start with 3 points that everyone agrees on first:

 

         1.) Heirloom seed must be open pollinated: Open pollinated varieties are plants that are pollinated by insects, birds, wind and other natural means.  They are more genetically diverse and if grown in isolation will produce seed that is 'true to type'.

 

         2.) Heirloom seed must be bred and stabilized using classic breeding practices.

 

         3.) No genetically modified seeds can be considered Heirloom.

 

So you have some seed that meets the above 3 points is it Heirloom or isn't it?  Now is the part of the argument that is highly debated:

 

         4.) Heirloom seed needs to have been in existence for a long time, its the actual length of time that is debated:

 

  • Some say seed needs to have originated over 50 years ago to be considered Heirloom.
  • Others say seed needs to have originated over 100 years ago to be considered Heirloom.
  • While others say seed needs to have been available before 1945. (End of Word War II)
  • And others say seed needs to have been available before 1951.  

          (beginning of widespread hybrid seed introduction)

  • To make all of this even more confusing some people use the term Heirloom seed in the literal sense: they simply mean a variety that has been nurtured and selected by a family, farm or small community over generations.

 

So back to the original question:

 

Are the seeds at TheSeedCollection Heirloom?

Yes, many of our varieties are heirloom.  All of them though are open pollinated which we believe is the more important fact. Additonally none of our seeds are genetically modified, none are chemically treated and none are hybrids.

 

Tomato Seed

Related blog posts:


Know Your Seeds- Open Pollinated, Heirloom, Hybrid, GMO

Author: John Mauger   Date Posted: 20 April 2017 

A seed contains the blueprint or instructions to produce a new plant. Traditionally all seeds were open-pollinated. That is; the pollen from the anther entered the stigma and traveled to the ovary. Fertilisation occurred and seeds were formed...

Read more


Recent blog posts:


Seed Treatments: Soaking, Scarification and Stratification

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 1 August 2017 

Some seeds you plant may require special treatments. In this article we will explain what these treatments are, why they are necessary.

Read more


Five Flowers That Anyone Can Grow From Seed

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 17 July 2017 

Gardens look much more appealing with some color and life but many people don't know where to start when it comes to flowers. However some flowers are so easy to grow that all you have to do is sow, water and enjoy.

Read more


Homemade Preparations for Pest, Disease and Weed Control

Author: John Mauger   Date Posted: 26 June 2017 

This article contains a range of homemade recipes/methods for controlling pests and other problems. While they are considered safe, only use them when and as needed as most are not selective and may kill beneficial insects as well.

Read more


Integrated Pest Management for Home Gardeners

Author: John Mauger   Date Posted: 22 June 2017 

Integrated pest management is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, etc.

Read more


High Rise Cucumbers

Author: Gregg Jacobson   Date Posted: 4 June 2017 

I decided to train the cucumbers up a trellis in order to make space for other vegetables and perhaps to avoid some of the fungus diseases, which are prevalent in a warm, moist climate. Off the ground the vines have good air circulation and little...

Read more


View all blog posts

Comments (2)

RE: What is an Heirloom seed anyway?
By: on 17 March 2016
Hi, do you realise you wrote genitally diverse? Was it supposed to be genetically??


RE: What is an Heirloom seed anyway?
By: on 17 March 2016
This article has been online for about a year and a half and you're the first person to notice that! Yes it was meant to be genetically. I have corrected it now. Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Only registered users may post comments.