What is an Heirloom seed anyway?

Written by 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:


Garden for a Day, Eat for a Decade

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 16 May 2020 

This article covers a few edible plants, from herbs to veggies and floral garnishes, which require the least amount of maintenance and are reasonable to grow in zones most climates.

Read more


Let's Talk About Flowers, Pollinators and Beneficial Insects!

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd | Nat Buttenshaw   Date Posted: 5 May 2020 

You may think of flower pollination as quite a simple process, however the details are far more complex and there are a large and diverse range of pollinators responsible for successful plant pollination in your garden.

Read more


How to Keep Millipede Numbers Under Control

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 5 May 2020 

Millipedes are a beneficial part of a balanced garden ecosystem, helping turn dead plant matter into fertile soil. But unfortunately, if other food is scarce, they can start to feed on your plants too.

Read more


Let's make Passionfruit Tomato Jam!

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd | Nat Buttenshaw   Date Posted: 4 May 2020 

This tropical flavoured jam recipe is a fantastic and easy way to preserve your fresh tomato and passionfruit harvest. It is great for those cold winter’s days served on warm freshly toasted bread. Jam makes a fantastic gift for friends family.

Read more


Garden Tips- May 2020

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 2 May 2020 

As many of you will already be aware, in the last few months we've experience an unprecedented demand for seeds and other gardening products. Throughout this period we've faced many logistical challenges including social distancing protocols and have...

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.