Friday, January 6, 2012

Save the Heirlooms! (And a Giveaway)


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
Jere and Emilee Gettle, owners of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in Mansfield, MO (home of Laura Ingalls Wilder), have devoted their lives to the preservation of heirloom seeds. They recently wrote a book about it. The Heirloom Life Gardener is a great read on the subject of heirlooms and how to grow them.

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


40 comments:

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Oo- a gardening book.

I'm fascinated by the comparison of types.

But I can't help wondering what will be applicable up in our region (though I'd love to find out...)

Writing from Interior Alaska.
Cheers!

Sarah Salisbury said...

We grow tons of heirlooms already in our garden...especially tomatoes...they are my favorite heirlooms to grow...so many different beautiful colors and sizes and flavors :)

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Kylee I have tried a few heirlooms but really wanted to learn more...my first time with heirlooms was tomatoes and it was a colossal fail due to blight which they quickly succumbed to...I am trying a few more heirloom tomatoes this year grown from seed this time.
Black Krim, a "black" tomato; orange Sweet Persimmon and deep-red, lobed Costoluto Genovese; wish me luck!

Missy said...

I need this book. Your blog is inspiring. Thanks.

Britni @ Our Eventual Homestead said...

We plan on doing a couple varieties of heirloom tomatoes. I just received my catalog from Baker Creek and have to make my list!!
Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

Jackie said...

I love Baker Creek Seeds. Thank you for having a giveaway.

Where fibers meet mud said...

I have been a fan and consumer of Baker Seeds for many many years. I love the quality and I love the beauty of the catalog.

Their service is superb.

I also support non-hybrid seeds as a way to save the planet in my own back yard. Great article!

Anonymous said...

Rutgers tomato and Margaret pepper
Thanks for the giveaway. Enjoy your blog!

Deb said...

I'm a new gardener...not the best at it, but this last year was our first real garden in a LONG time. I'm trying to stick with open pollinated plants, so I can save as many seeds as I can for the next year...that is if I actually end up liking what I plant. LOL

This year I'm planning on planting black beauty zucchini and the straight eight cucumbers I saved seeds from last year. Also I've purchased the following seeds to try too. Roma tomato, Jalapenos, country gentlemen corn, Clemson spineless okra, Sugar Pie pumpkin, patty pan squash (a friend gave us some of these this last summer and we fell in love with them!) Iroquois Cantaloupe, Packman Broccoli and Big Red Sweet Pepper. I don't know for sure which of these are considered to be heirlooms, but I think they are all open pollinated, so hopefully that counts cause I'd love a chance to win the book! :)

Dani said...

I have only been able to find heirloom tomato seeds, and they are coming along brilliantly. I'll be doing a blog posting on them in the next week or so - do so hope they wait until our return to our farm before they ripen...

Leigh from Larrapin Garden said...

Great giveaway and great topic. I order lots of seeds from Baker Creek and have found some of my current favorites from them: Ragged Jack Kale and Monstreaux de Viroflay spinach. Thanks for doing this!

Rick said...

What a wonderful and generous gift.

TBTorra said...

I'm looking forward to planting heirlooms from Seed Savers Exchange this year. We're still planning the garden, but beans, peas, eggplant, and peppers are all on the list!

Jenny said...

I live within a 3 hr drive of Mansfield but have never been there. I'd love to read their book.

Karen604 said...

We have several heirloom tomatoes that are goin in as well as beans, peas and carrots. My son visited Baker in Cali last fall and returned with lots of seeds. He says he will share seedlings.

Bethany said...

I live in Holland, Michigan (I believe it is also zone 5B!) and this will be my second year having a garden since I only recently became a homeowner.

Last year we got a late start, so we just drove to the nursery and picked up any transplants they had left. They did really well!

This year I'm placing an order at Seed Savers exchange - too many things to list, but what I'm most excited to grow is green beans!

When I was young, my mom grew TONS of beans and canned them and I remember sitting with a big bowl snapping the ends off for what felt like forever.

I'll be growing the "Empress" variety from SSE, but am considering dragon's tongue as well! So beautiful.

Caroline said...

I'd love to try some lemon cucumbers this spring. And I'd love to have this book! Baker Creek is awesome.

unsightly said...

I saved heirloom seeds from my Italian rose beans, lemon cucumbers, brandywine tomatoes and asparagus yardlong beans to grow again this year.

Sunshine said...

I planted some heirloom garlic this fall from the gardener's market - really excited to see how it turns out (we love garlic!)

lmsunshine3ATgmailDOTcom (Missy S. on rafflecopter)

Mrs. Bartos said...

We're going to try some heirloom field corn as well as sweet corn, some varieties of tomatoes, as well as pumpkin and squash. I really need to get more savvy on the hows and what-to-fors of seed saving though.

Angela Faust said...

I usually grow heirloom tomatoes. This year I'm trying some shelling beans.

Divine Creations said...

I will be planting tomatoes,beans,beets,melons,and squash just to name a few.I love heirloom plants.Nice site you have by the way.Wishing you all the best this 2012 and beyond.

Divine Destiny Farm

Anne Larson said...

Thanks for the plug for heirloom plants. I think we will find, with time, that the right selections are actually much more durable than the overbred types available at some of our seed stores. In Iowa, SeedSavers Exchange is just down the road from Burr Oak, another place the Wilders put down roots for a time. Your sharing your book is awesome, and putting the word out that we can do our part by planting heirlooms and saving seed is an excellent public service!

meemsnyc said...

That watermelon looks so cute and amazing! I am planning on growing heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers this year.

Songbirdtiff said...

Great giveaway! I'm a sucker for a good gardening book, but I haven't read any specific to heirloom gardening.

Nancybeth said...

I love to grow heirloom tomatoes, especially German stripe. You have to feel them to know if they are ripe.

Judy F said...

I grew Heirloom sweet peas & zinnias last summer, and heirloom tomatoes in the past. Heirloom flowers are so amazingly fragrant.

Liz said...

Heirloom varieties of plants are great to grow not only because they promote biodiversity but also because they stories that come along with them. Because they are often attached to stories and folklore they can serve as conversation pieces in my garden much like antiques and family heirlooms do in the home. I always love having big heirloom tomatoes in my garden such as striped german and black krim, and rue is one of my favorite herbs to grow as it has folkloric value in my history, but I also love growing old-fashioned flowers as opposed to the latest and greatest hybrids. Hollyhocks, foxglove, bells of ireland and love-lies-bleeding are some of my favorites to grow.

Chiot's Run said...

I've been eyeing this book since I heard about it. I try to grow heirlooms above any other kind, mostly because I like the history behind them. I've also read that they're contain more vitamins/minerals than hybrids.

I love Baker Creek Seeds, I've always had great luck with them.

Shady Gardener said...

The book sounds great! Count me in. ;-) I tried two varieties of heirloom tomatoes last Summer as well as one of green beans. That's pretty good for me, considering where I live!! lol.

Scented Leaf said...

Great giveaway and great blog!!!
I need more time to catch up with your posts :-) Keep going :-)

Emily said...

Just moved onto a nice plot of land, with four raised garden beds full of weeds, crab grass etc. I have no idea what the first step is to clear it out. But, I am gonna try!

Debbie said...

I'm planting heirloom tomatoes this year and in a new part of the garden. Wish me luck! Would like to try some other seeds as well. Thanks for the opportunity for the book - it looks wonderful.

Granny Plaid Pants said...

We are two 60-something "soil sisters" in Nashville, MI. Four years ago we started our little five-acre homestead. Our dream is to grow most of our own food, use our alpaca fiber to create products to sell, and help others connect with God through the outdoors. This year's garden will feature heirloom beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Visit us on Facebook at Smooring En Farm Friends, or at our website. Or just stop in if you're in the area. :)

Scooter said...

I plan on growing many heirlooms, but The German Stripped Tomato is a for sure bet again this year.

Teresa said...

I grow quite a few heirlooms now, black Tuscon kale and black Krim tomatoes among my favorites. (No, I'm not Goth, but those deeply pigmented vegetables are both delicious and pretty in the garden.) I'm still working on my plan for the 2012 garden, but these two, are sure to be invovled, along with Vermont Cranberry and Brockton Horticultural beans, Rattlesnake beans, and a yellow Romano that's also an heirloom.

Kristi said...

Well I try to grow only heirlooms. I'm eyeing the moons and stars watermelon and some heirloom winter squashes from the baker creek catalog. Last year I tried fish peppers, dragon tongue beans, and gypsy tomatoes.

faithplusnothing said...

I would love to win this.

annwwins@yahoo.com

-botanycreek- said...

I plan on adding some heirloom arugula to the garden this year. I tried it for the first time when I was in Ireland and Britain this summer and fell in love

Anonymous said...

Great post, I grew 13 varities of heirloom tomatoes last year (happen to order from Bakercreek) with great success.
Stacey
www.downtoearthdigs.wordpress.com

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