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:


Why a Hori Hori Knife Could Become Your Favourite Hand Tool

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

The hori hori knife is a versatile hand tool that combines cutting, digging, and measuring in one handy implement. Read how it works and what it can be used for.

Read more


Garden Tips- June 2021

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 1 June 2021 

The pace of growth may be slow in June, and for some plants the season is over altogether, but for other crops the cool temperatures are bringing them into their prime.

Read more


Easy Garden Hygiene: Tips to Reduce Pest and Disease Problems

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 31 May 2021 

Providing plants with a healthy environment is key to gardening success. One of the most important ways of doing this is to practice good garden hygiene to keep pests and disease in check. This article gives 13 useful tips on how to do exactly that.

Read more


How to Make Homemade Cabbage Moth Decoys

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 27 May 2021 

Cabbage moths are one of the most destructive pests in a veggie patch. This short guide shows how to deter them with inexpensive but effective homemade cabbage moth decoys.

Read more


Corn Salad: A Guide to Growing the Cool-Season Leaf

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 17 May 2021 

Corn salad is a tasty, tender leafy green that's easy to grow at home, and it makes a great addition to your winter table. Here's what you need to know to grow and harvest this popular cool-season salad leaf.

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.