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:


Seed Sowing - A Guide for Success

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 12 April 2018 

Growing seeds is an exciting and satisfying journey, but many small details can make the difference to your success. Planning is vital - before sowing, decide on how to give your seedlings the best start in life, and you'll be rewarded with healthy plants

Read more


Green Manure - A Sustainable, Organic Soil Improver for Vegetable Growers

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 3 April 2018 

A healthy, nutrient-rich soil is a vegetable grower's best friend. Green manure offers a sustainable way of improving your soil year on year for very little effort, and this article explains how to begin.

Read more


How to Grow Sprouts - the Quickest, Easiest Way to Put Home-Grown Food On Your Plate

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 21 March 2018 

Sprouting seeds is probably the fastest way of putting home-grown food on your plate. This article explains the benefits of sprouts, and gives a clear, step-by-step guide on how to start sprouting at home.

Read more


How to Grow Microgreens - Its Simple and Quick but Intensely Rewarding

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 16 March 2018 

Microgreens have been an essential highlight of modern kitchens over recent years, but they're far more than a passing trend. This article explains what they are, how to grow them, and why every green-fingered food lover should give them a try.

Read more


7 Essential Perennial Herbs for Your Garden

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 8 March 2018 

Growing your own herbs provides a happy meeting between two great pastimes of gardening and cooking. Starting a herb garden opens up a huge range of flavors beyond those you'll find on the supermarket shelves.

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.