If you went into my Grandparents dug out basement, with its’ dirt floor, you would find jars of heirloom seeds lining the makeshift walls. Over the years of fending for themselves and their children they had learned the importance of saving heirloom seeds. Having their own seed bank, kept them from becoming dependent on others, especially in hard financial times.
Before they used the jar saving seed system, Granny Laura would save the seeds on chicken feed sack material. It was a loose woven cotton material. Granny Laura would start by choosing the best fruit or vegetable of her crop, then slice it open and gently squeeze or scrap the seeds onto the cloth. She would then move the cloth into the sunlight to dry the seeds. After they had dried, she would carefully fold the material to form an envelope around the seeds before placing them in a cool dry spot until spring. When spring came, Granny Laura would plant her saved seeds and wait for her reward of a new spring crop.
Granny Laura, may not have known it at the time but she was passing on, not only, good seeds but history, too. Most of the heirloom seeds we have today came from this kind of heirloom seed saving.
If you’ve ever been to your local farmer’s market, you may have come across vegetables labeled as “heirloom.” Heirloom, has the sound of something elegant, often referring to something valuable, that has been passed down from generation to generation. But, you may ask, if heirloom vegetables are so valuable, why do they look so darned weird?
Simply because, heirloom vegetables are a specific variety of vegetables that have been grown for many years and is open pollinated by bees and other garden insects. This is in contrast to hybrid and GM (genetically modified) vegetables, we now find commonly grown in today‘s gardens, that have been crossed pollinated or genes modified to produce that perfect roundness or color.
While the heirloom vegetable may look strange in its’ appearance, they usually have the better taste and flavor, especially when eaten fresh from the garden. So if you have a choice, go for the unique shape and color of a vegetable grown from heirloom seeds.