When our grandparents were busy plowing the fields and hoeing the gardens, they were likely growing plants from seeds that were saved from year to year. They saved the seeds from the best plants each season and each year the results were [theoretically] better than the year before. Why were they better? Because the plants that did well in their unique growing situation were more likely to do well in that same situation again. They thrived because they adapted to their environment. Same plants, only better.
|'Sun, Moon and Stars' Watermelon |
(Heirloom, introduced commercially in 1926)
Yes, it's usually larger than this!
Seeds that are saved in this way are open-pollinated, meaning one kind of plant wasn’t purposely pollinated with another to create a specific and different plant. They simply were pollinated naturally by insects, the wind, or birds. With hybrids, two different plants are purposely cross-pollinated with a specific purpose in mind – to create a plant with a specific color, growth habit, hardiness, or some other desirable trait.
As more and more plants are created by the hybridizers, the heirlooms (as those plants that have been passed down over the years via saving seeds are called) are disappearing. This is especially worrisome when it comes to seeds that grow edibles. Many of the varieties that our ancestors enjoyed are becoming scarce, if not non-existent. The diversity of crops, which is vital to the health of our homegrown food supply as well as the insect population (the balance of good guys to bad guys), is taking a huge hit.
|The purple streaked beans are 'Dragon Tongue', an heirloom from 18th|
century The Netherlands.
I’m not against hybrids. Thousands of beautiful and delicious plants have been created by hybridization and I grow many of them in my gardens. I just hate to see so many of the heirlooms disappearing. We need to grow more of them to assure that they won't be lost. Hopefully, you're already growing some heirlooms in your gardens!
|Emilee and Jere Gettle, |
with daughter Sasha
You can see my review of their book on my garden book review site, Gardening by the Book, as well as on Horticulture magazine’s website.
And, since I received two copies of their new book, I’m giving one away to one lucky reader! All you need to do to be entered to win is leave a comment to this blog post and tell me what heirlooms you plan to grow this year. Are you trying a new one or do you have a favorite that you grow every year? Be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form too, so I’ll have a way to contact you if you win. The giveaway ends in three days, at midnight EST this coming Monday, so don't wait to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway