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:


High-Yield Vegetables - How to Get the Most from Your Veggie Patch

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 5 October 2018 

It may be great fun to experiment with growing unusual crop varieties, but if your harvest is a disappointment it can quickly make gardening a chore rather than a pleasure. This article describes ten productive plants all veggie growers should consider.

Read more


Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials - Understanding Plant Life Cycles

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 28 September 2018 

Annual, biennial, and perennial. These terms describe the life cycle of the plant, and it's important to understand the differences between them when planning your garden. This article explains what you need to know.

Read more


Low-Maintenance Vegetable Gardening - Homegrown Produce Without the Hassle

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 24 September 2018 

Not all veggies need hand-holding and constant encouragement. This article explains how to use low-maintenance plant varieties and techniques to fit vegetable growing into a busy schedule.

Read more


Growing Carrots - 9 Common Problems and How to Handle Them

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 11 September 2018 

A veggie patch isn't complete without a row or two of carrots. However, many gardeners give them a try and are disappointed by a harvest of twisted bitter roots. But there's no need to be discouraged. With a little care, carrots are simple to grow.

Read more


5 Table-to-Soil No-Compost Additives for Your Garden

Author: Bob Drummond   Date Posted: 5 September 2018 

Even if you choose not to maintain a compost pile, you can utilise some common kitchen waste that does not require composting before use. Rather than waste them by throwing away all of their precious nutrients, add them to your garden.

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.