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

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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.