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:


Using Trap Crops to Control Pests - Completely Organically

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 20 January 2021 

Growing trap crops is a powerful way of controlling pests completely organically. This article describes how it works, and how to get the best from the technique.

Read more


How to Protect Your Pea Plants from Pea Beetle Damage

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 13 January 2021 

Pea beetles are a legume-loving pest that can lay waste to a pea crop both before and after harvest. This article describes the damage these bugs can do, and provides tips on reducing the problems they cause.

Read more


Heliotropism: Why Some Sun-Loving Plants Track Across the Sky

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 8 January 2021 

Sunflowers are famed not only for their beauty, but also for the way the flowers track the sun across the sky over a day. This behaviour is known as heliotropism, and this article describes why it happens.

Read more


Scarlet Runner Beans - How to Grow from Seed to Harvest

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 28 December 2020 

Scarlet runner beans are ornamental, productive, and delicious. What's not to like? Here's what you need to know to grow them at home.

Read more


Garden Weevils: Flightless but Voracious Insect Pests

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 24 December 2020 

Garden weevils can be a major problem for veggie growers if a population climbs out of control. This article describes how to identify the insect, recognise the damage it causes, and keep its numbers in check.

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.