The World at Peace – In My Garden

Is world peace just a pipe dream?  It may seem like it is in every corner of the globe… except where there’s a garden.

Because of seed companies, like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, where owners, Jere and Emilee Gettle travel the world, collecting seeds from over 70 countries, and offering “the most diverse collection of edibles on the planet”, a garden is the one place on earth where world peace can not only exist, but thrive!

In my garden, lettuce and cucumbers from Israel…

cucumber tunnel

happily share precious soil with watermelons from Iraq.

sugar baby watermelon

Eggplant from Italy and Asia…

rosa bianca

pe tsai

proudly co-mingle with tomatoes from Greece and the good ol’ US of A.

tomato harvest

pineapple tomatoes

Squash and melons from France…

Ronde De Nice Squash

charentais melon

are content to co-habitate with kale that hails from Portugal,

portugeuse kale

and broccoli that has roots in Italy.

Green Macereta Cauliflower

Ethnicity, religious, political, and world viewpoints don’t matter in a garden.  Border encroachments are readily forgiven, and jockeying for positions of great power and wealth are absolutely unheard of .

A garden is  such a happy, beautiful, and peaceful place.  Yes, “There is peace in the garden.  Peace and results”, says Ruth Stout.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world was at peace

 just as it is

in my garden?

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My Top Three Food Choices for the Fall/Winter Garden

It’s something I’ve been hearing a lot of, lately, “I didn’t get a garden planted this year.”

“Well”, I say, “the year’s not over yet!”

In fact, the end of summer is a great time to get a fall/winter garden started.

There are a variety of  crops that do well as fall and winter crops and, depending on where you live, you may be able to successfully garden all the way into next spring.

Today, I wanted to share with you my top three favorite food crops to raise in a fall/winter garden.  If you still want to get something growing, this year, why not give these a try?  I chose these varieties for their ease of growing, quickness to produce, beauty, and versatility  in cooking.  I hope they inspire you to get a fall/winter garden, of your own, growing.

1.  Looseleaf Lettuce — also known as “cut and come again” lettuce.  My favorite varieties are: Lollo Rossa, Merveille Des Quatre Saisons, Oak Leaf, and Black-Seeded Simpson.

Lettuce is one of the easiest crops to grow, and it grows best in cool weather, so the end of summer is the perfect time to get a crop started.

I recommend growing the looseleaf type (as opposed to the “head” type) because you can begin to harvest leaves from it in about 45 days after planting, as baby lettuce.  When the leaves get to be about three inches high, you can simply clip them off,  leaving about an inch of growth near the soil, and they will continue to grow and produce even more leaves for you to harvest (head lettuce usually requires the entire head to be harvested at once, and it does not produce another head once it is cut off).

It does not take much room to grow lettuce — it can  be grown in containers and small pots.  There is no need to plant it in rows, or even dig furrows when planting.  When I sow my lettuce seed, I simply scatter the seed on top of the soil, then gently rake through it, or cover it with straw hay, and keep it well watered until it sprouts.   I allow the lettuce to grow very close together, leaving only a couple of inches between heads.

Lettuce is one of those crops that I try to grow year-round in my garden — it definitely pays big dividends in terms of cost savings at the grocery store, and there are so many colorful, tasty, heirloom varieties that I just can’t get anywhere else except my own backyard.  Last year, my lettuce made it all the way through the mild winter right into the spring.  Whenever a deep frost was expected, I simply tossed a covering of plastic over it, and it kept right on producing.  If you’re looking for a sweet, delicious, healthy, and easy to grow crop for a fall/winter garden, lettuce can’t be beat!

2.  Garden Peas — varieties to look for:  Corne De Belier, Sugar Ann, Sugar Snap, Lincoln (garden) , and Tall Telephone (garden)

Talk about another easy-to-grow garden goodie!  These are one of the first plants I learned to grow in my garden, and let me tell you, they are totally user friendly.

The only thing that stops this wonderful, edible gem from producing  is the heat.  So, as we head towards the cooler days of fall, it’s the perfect time to sow seed for this sweet, green snack.

My preferred method for growing peas is on a trellis system (I just love the way they look spiraling up a tee pee trellis)  Therefore, I am biased towards a “pole” variety.  I make my own trellises out of tree limbs (three of them) that I form into a “tee pee”.  Then, I wrap around it with twine, leaving about six inches of space between each level.  If you don’t want to mess with a trellis system, simply purchase a “bush” variety that will support each other when they are planted close together.

There’s not many other veggies that can compare to the sugary, sweet, crispy goodness that garden peas provide. True garden peas are grown for the peas that grow inside of the shell, while snap and snow peas are grown for their edible pods.  Both types are grown in the same way.  When planting in late summer, it is best to plant them in a shaded area, where they will not be stunted by the hot sun.  They can also be planted out  later on, after the weather turns cool, but before frost sets in, and they will be ready to harvest the following spring.

If you’ve got kids, garden peas are a must!  I haven’t met a child, yet, who doesn’t love the taste of fresh, vine-picked garden peas.  They are delicious raw, stir-fried, boiled, or in salads… a perfect crop for the fall/winter garden!

3.  Beetroot — Types I’ve grown:  Bull’s Blood (pictured) and Chioggia

Before I started growing my own beets, I had an aversion to their earthy taste, but now that I know what a homegrown beet tastes like…wow!  It’s one of my favorite things to grow in the garden.  Like the two veggies I listed above, this one is incredibly easy to grow.  The seeds are large, making them really easy to handle, and they don’t take much care once you’ve got them planted in the ground.  They are fast growing and can be grown just about anywhere.

Not only is the root edible, but the tops are, too.  I love to harvest the young tops and add them to my salads and smoothies.  If you leave the bulbs in the ground, you can continue to harvest the tops for a long while – simply cut the tops off at the base, and the beet will sprout new leaves for you.  I’ve been harvesting beet tops from a crop I planted almost two years ago, when we first moved on to our property!

I also enjoy eating the beet roots fresh, peeled  and chopped into matchsticks to top a  salad, and juiced and added to my smoothies (they give it a beautiful color!)  One of my all-time favorite recipes that makes use of both the roots and the  tops is a Roasted Beet Salad With Oranges and Beet Greens  that I found at Epicurious.com.  It makes a fantastic fall salad – one that adds a touch of beauty and health to every meal it graces!

So, to everyone who has been lamenting about not getting in that  spring garden, I say, “fah-get about it!”  As the Chinese Proverb says,  “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”  Okay.  We’re not talking about trees, here, but you get the point:  if you missed out on spring planting, this year, the second best time to plant is now.

So, why not grab a packet of lettuce, pea, and beet seeds and get growing?  Remember, it’s best to choose heirloom, open-pollinated, and non- genetically modified seeds.  My favorite places to order seeds from are Bountiful Gardens, Baker Creek, and Renee’s Garden Seeds (the other thing that’s nice about starting a garden, this late in the year,  is that  seed companies may be offering a discount on their end of the season seed packets).

Do you garden through the fall and winter?  What are your favorite varieties to grow, and why?

10 Tips For Selecting Seeds For Your Garden

This is the time of year when I love to cuddle up in a warm blanket on the couch with a cup of hot tea, a highlighter, and my favorite source of pleasure reading, seed catalogs, and create a shopping list of seeds for this year’s garden.

Starting plants from seed is a most rewarding experience.  All it takes is a little time and effort.  The most difficult part, for me, is deciding what not to plant!

This year, I’ve come up with a list of qualifications for choosing seed that will make narrowing down the field a bit easier for me.  If you’re looking to start a glorious vegetable garden from seed, perhaps these tips will help you, too.

1.  Choose seed for foods that you are familiar with and know you are  going to consume.  Although I have a soft spot for growing exotically-named heirloom veggies, and one’s that we’ve never eaten before,  this year’s garden is going to be full of veggies that will end up in our tummies (lots of melons, tomatoes, and beans), not on the compost heap (mustard, huckleberries, and spaghetti squash).   When choosing seed, it’s good to ask yourself first, “Are we really going to eat this?”

2.  Choose seed for foods  that are based on the amount of  room you have for growing. I’ve got a large garden, so I don’t have to worry about this too much, but if you’ve got a smaller garden, you should.  Even if you love fresh broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and corn, you’ll probably be better off buying it from the store or farmer’s market, since these plants take up a huge amount of space for the amount of food they produce.  In small gardens, you’ll get a much better bang for your buck when you choose seeds like lettuce, beans, peas, onions, and garlic, where you’ll use up the entire pack and can plant a lot in a small area.  In a larger garden, like mine, it’s good to be selective about the varieties you’re going to grow.  You may want to grow three different types of corn, but do you really have the room?  It’s wise to plan ahead, and put your garden down on paper, plotting out the growing area so that you don’t order an over-abundance of seed, or try to grow foods that won’t be accommodated in the space…ask yourself, “Am I going to have room for this?”

3.  Choose seed for foods based on the number of days to harvest, or particular growing season.  This year, I’m paying particularly close attention to these two items, which can be found on most seed packets, or listed in catalog descriptions.  In the past, I haven’t, and have been overwhelmed by harvests coming in all at once.  It is a good idea to choose seed for plants that will produce early, mid, and late season harvests, so that you have things coming into season at different times.  For example, select one tomato that ripens in 50 days, another at 70, and still another at 90.  (You can also start seedlings at different times and get a similar effect, but early and late season varieties are usually particularly suited to that time of year for growing, and will probably produce better when grown at the right time).  Growing season is also important.  Is your growing season short or long?  If it’s short, you do not want to select seed for plants that are going to take a long time to produce.  If it’s long, you can be more choosy…ask yourself, “When am I going to be harvesting this plant, and do I have enough time to grow it?”

5.  Choose seeds based on the climate of your growing area.  Do you live near the coast, where there is not much fluctuation in temperature, or in a desert, where temperatures skyrocket during the summer?  It’s important to select seed according to how well it is going to perform under your climate’s particular conditions.  Here, in the Central Valley of California, it’s rather hot and dry, so I look for seed packets that boast words like, “slow-to-bolt”, or “holds up well in hot weather”, and tend to stay away from ones that say, “does best in cool weather”, or “doesn’t tolerate the heat”.  Since the places I purchase my seeds from sell seed from all around the world, I hone in on seeds that come from places with similar climates to mine — places like Asia and the middle east, rather than Russia, or Scandinavian countries.  That does not mean that I won’t try to grow something that isn’t particularly suited to my climate, but the majority of my seeds are chosen for climate compatibility.  When choosing seed, ask yourself, “Is this plant well-suited to my climate?”

6.  Choose seeds based on last year’s production and quality.  It’s a good idea to keep a garden journal so that you can keep track of all of the different plant varieties that you grow and chart successes and failures.  I purchase a lot of seed each year, and have high hopes that each will produce and abundance of fruit and look and taste great, but the reality is, not all plants are created equal — some produce well, but leave something to be desired in the taste category, and others taste amazing, but have relatively low production.  I almost always choose taste over production, so once I come across something I don’t like, I make a note of it and make sure not to order that particular seed the following year.  If you’ve got a small garden, you might prefer quantity over quality, and choose your seeds accordingly.  When choosing seed, pull out your handy garden journal from the previous year and ask, “Is this one worth re-purchasing or, if you’ve saved seed, worth re-growing?”

7.  Choose seeds based on their ease of germinating, growing, and harvesting.  When it comes to these qualities, not all plants are created equal, either.  Some plants require cold stratification before they will germinate, others need soil temperatures to be above seventy-five degrees.  Some plants like dry conditions, others like perpetually wet feet.  Some grow neat and tidy, while other sprawl and take over the garden worse than an out-of-control weed.  Most veggies are easy to harvest, while others grow spikes, and itchy hairs, or need machines to take their hulls off.   If you’re a beginner, you want to look for words like, “easy to grow”, “compact”, and “bush habit”, so that you will experience success in your gardening.  Even if you’re an experienced gardener, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the plant before you get started.  Last year, I grew hull-less varieties of barley, oats, and french lentil beans.  They were the easiest seeds to sow, and grew wonderfully with hardly any attention being paid to them, but when it came time to harvest, they were the most difficult plants I’ve ever had to deal with.  Although I cherish the experience, I will not be growing any more of these plants until I find an efficient and inexpensive way to harvest them.  Lesson learned:  when choosing seed ask, “Is it easy to sow, grow, and harvest?”

9.  Choose a few seeds for their novelty, or to try something new.  This may seem like it’s a contradiction to point number one, but I think a small portion of the garden should be devoted to growing something purely for experimentation and/or  fun – you never know what great and wonderful things you’ll love to keep in your garden until you give them a try!  This year, I’m introducing pineapple ground cherries and dinosaur kale into my garden.  I chose the ground cherries (a relative of the tomato) because they look pretty, and I’m curious to know what they taste like.  The dinosaur kale I selected just because I love the name!  So, when choosing seed ask yourself, “What do I want to grow just for fun?”

10.  Choose seeds that will allow you to reproduce the plant.  First, this means that you’ll only want to select seeds that are heirloom, open-pollinated, non-GMO (genetically modified), and non-hybrid.  While I don’t have time to go into all the details here, suffice it to say that these types of seeds are far more likely to allow you to reproduce “true” offspring year after year than hybrids, which may contain a “terminator” gene that will not allow the plant to reproduce at all, or will not breed true, and you’ll end up with unpredictable results.  My favorite sources for heirloom, open-pollinated seeds are: Baker Creek (which I sell, and you can purchase by visiting my What’s For Sale page), Bountiful Gardens, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  While seed saving from all fruits and vegetables is possible, some are easier to save than others.  Self-pollinating plants are the easiest to save seed from and include peas, peppers, tomatoes, beans, pumpkins, lettuce, and grains.  Saving seed means saving money and makes a lot of  sense.  To learn more about it, check out the book Seed to Seed, the gold standard for learning how to save and store seedAfter you do, when choosing seed ask, “Will I be able to save this seed?”

These are the criteria I’ve decided to use, this year, to help me create a more focused shopping list of fruit and vegetable seeds for my garden.  If you decide to start a garden from seed, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful, too.

Why I Transitioned From Hybrid to Heirloom

About two years ago I made the transition from growing all hybrid fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs to cultivars that are only produced from heirloom seeds.   I’ll share with you some of the top reasons why many people are making the switch, and then I’ll let you know what drew me in hook, line, and sinker.

So, what exactly is an “heirloom”?  It’s difficult to nail down a tried and true definition of what exactly constitutes an heirloom variety, but suffice it to say,  heirloom seeds have been around for a very long time (the exact time is still being debated — at least 50 years, though)  and have unique family traits that have been handed down, through careful seed saving and propagation techniques, generation after generation,  in order to ensure similar results in the plants’ offspring.

Heirloom varieties are not grown on an industrial scale, here in America, where large scale farms now grow only a few varieties of crops that are selected for their productivity, uniformity, toleration of picking and shipping, and a few other characteristics that heirlooms can’t usually “measure up” to.  Some might say that heirloom gardening is a reaction against modern agricultural trends.   I suppose, if you polled one hundred heirloom gardeners and asked them if it were true, they’d say “yes”.  However, there are so many other good, sound reasons why farmers and gardeners, like me, have taken the plunge and become heirloom growers.

One reason why gardeners love heirlooms is for their diversity.  You just don’t see varieties like these filling up grocery stores bins!  Before I started growing heirlooms, I’d never even seen or heard of  things like  Moon and Stars watermelon, which have skins that are splashed with irregular, bright yellow shapes, and look like moons and stars or Black Diamond Yellow Flesh watermelon, a variety that looks like a typical grocery store melon on the outside, but is anything but typical-looking on the inside, with its golden-colored flesh.

Others, no doubt, grow heirlooms for their taste.  With all of the diverse cultivars out there, there are a myriad of unique flavors to choose from!  Everyone who’s ever tasted a home-grown tomato, even if it’s a hybrid variety, knows the superior flavor to that of store-bought.  Heirloom growers kick the taste level up a notch, however,  and experience even more robust and complex flavors than were ever thought possible.  Oh sure, there are varieties that are less desirable than others, but one bite of a pineapple or chocolate-cherry tomato and I’ve (almost) never wanted  to eat or grow the standard, red faire again!

Many gardeners and farmers prefer to grow heirlooms is for their stability, predictability, and ability to reproduce offspring that are genetically similar, if not identical, to their parents — a lesson I learned and shared with you in a past blog about these sweet pea flowers.

The fact that heirloom plants protect pollinators is another reason why they are increasing in popularity.  In an effort to keep unwanted pests away, some hybrid plants have been genetically modified so that they produce their own insecticides.  Unfortunately, the pollen from these hybrid monsters is also laced with poisons that may, ultimately, be killing off the “good guys” — the butterflies and bees that are essential to ensuring a stable food supply for us humans.  Furthermore, the pollen from genetically modified plants is “sterile” , potentially leading to malnourishment and even death by starvation in these little critters.  Lastly, some hybrid plants, containing “terminator” genes and producing only infertile seeds are suspected of altering the digestive tracts of bees, causing something similar to human colon cancer, something never before seen in bees, which is leading to thousands upon thousands of mysterious bee deaths, known as colony collapse disorder.  For this reason alone, more farmers and gardeners should be turning to growing more heirloom seeds.  The sake of our food supply may very well depend on it!

On a lighter note, heirloom gardening also saves money.  Because the seeds are open pollinated, they can be saved and replanted year after year, thereby eliminating the need to buy more seed every season.  Because they are easier to produce, heirloom plants can also cost less than hybrid seed, freeing up more money to be spent on tools, watering devices, or more seed!  I saved these English shelling pea seeds in the spring, and just replanted them for a fall harvest.  I’m new at seed saving (which can be quite a complicated manner, as I’m learning) but it appears I did a fairly good job.  I’m starting to see little shoots emerge from underneath the straw mulch where I planted them.  We should be harvesting more yummy peas — direct descendants, and nearly identical in genetic make-up to their parents — in about a month.

In addition, some research has shown that heirloom vegetables are actually more nutritious than store-bought, commercially grown varieties.  This all goes back to their genetic diversity.  Industrialized varieties are bred to produce high yields, but often at the expense of their nutritional value.  It’s true — one of the drawbacks of growing heirloom varieties is that they cannot compete with  producing the vast amounts of food that commercially produced, hybrid varieties do; however, nutrition is far more important in my book than production is.  Besides, with the money I’m saving by purchasing heirloom seeds, I just grow a few more plants to offset the lack of production.  Needless to say, we’ve grown a bounty of fresh, home-grown produce from heirloom seeds this year!

Certainly, there are many more reasons why people prefer to grow heirloom, instead of hybrid varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  I could go on and on about my positive experiences with them.  However, the reason why I now choose and love to garden with heirloom seeds can be summed up in one, simple word: history.  Not because I am a history buff, or because it’s what I have my degree in.  I love to grow heirloom plants because each one represents a real, live connection to the past; each one has a unique story, telling about how old they are, where they came from, and who grew them.  Every time I go out into my garden, I feel as if I’m taking a trip back into history, visiting a distant time and place, and I wonder about things like: Who nurtured, cared for, and saved this seed?  What kind of a garden did it grow in?  Did it grace the table of a simple peasant, or possibly even a grand king?    I  think about Thomas Jefferson when I pass by the Spitzenburg apple tree that grows in my front yard and think about it’s distant ancestor that grew and was cultivated by President Jefferson in the gardens at Monticello. I marvel at the Iraqi man who pleaded with Jerre Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds to save his rare tomato seed, dating back to biblical times, before  his farm became another victim of the American-Iraqi war.  I want to grow its fruit in my garden, not only because of its connection to ancient Ninevah, where Jonah the prophet reluctantly called the city to repentance, but so that this precious man’s efforts to preserve its seed will not have been in vain.  I’m both astounded and humbled to have the privilege to take part in growing heirloom seeds and all of their  rich history.  It’s what I love most about being an heirloom gardener, and it’s why I will, probably, never grow another hybrid seed as long as I live.  I love sharing the stories about these plants with the customers who now visit my produce stand on Saturdays.  There’s something amazing and, I think, empowering that happens when they realize they’re not just eating a piece of fruit, or a vegetable, but they’re partaking in a piece of history.  I’m so glad I made the transition to heirloom gardening and I hope it inspires more people to make the switch!

Sweet Preservations From The Past

The first time I learned about heirloom seeds and plants was about a year ago.  Up until that time, I had purchased all of my seeds and plants from local hardware, home,  and big box stores.  For the most part, I’d experienced good success with germination, growth, and production rates – I really had nothing to complain about.

One of my favorite flowers to grow were sweet peas. ( Now, you have to know what a fan I am of sweet pea flowers – I love them! – especially the old spice mix.  They bloom in a variety of colors – white, pink, red, purple, maroon… – some are even bi-colored, like the ones in the lower right side of the picture that are deep purple and blue, and they smell like nothing else!)

The first year I planted them, they came up like the ones in the photo: with all of their beautiful colors and magnificent fragrance.  What a joy it was to sit out in my garden, gazing at their splendor and taking in their perfumy scent.  I truly enjoyed them all season long!

As  spring came to a close, and the hotter days of summer took over, they began to look a little scraggly and dried out.  However, I let them remain in the ground a while longer in the hopes that they would drop their seeds and produce the same, multicolored, sweet-scented clones the following year.

Well, you can imagine my surprise, the following spring, when I noticed that the next generation plants were blooming  in only a single color.  Oh, there were variant shades of purple but no other, distinct colors.  What had happened to the pinks, whites, blues, and reds?   Furthermore, where was the wondrous fragrance? It hadn’t completely waned, but it definitely wasn’t as noticeable as it had been the year before.

“What happened?” I wondered.

Knowing something about genetics, I made a simple deduction (and I mean sim-ple!) – that only the seeds with the purple genes had been strong enough to survive the winter, and it was just too bad that the “dominant fragrance” gene hadn’t been passed down along with it (shows how much I knew about hybrids and GMO’s).

“Oh well”, I thought.  “I like the color purple, and I guess I won’t miss the smell that much.”

“I can live with these”, I rationalized.

At least they were free – and I liked free!  So, I was considerably tolerant of the single-colored, weakly-fragrant annual’s return to my springtime garden each year.  That is, until the day I learned about hybrids and GMO’s.

I happened to be doing an internet search on organic gardening one day, about a year ago,  and came across a most extraordinary and magnificent website: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – a company offering the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the United States.    It was my first introduction to the common vocabulary of heirloom growers, words like: “open-pollinated”,” hybrid”, “GMO”, “treated” and “certified organic”.  I quickly learned about companies, like Mansanto (who is currently facing a class action lawsuit, regarding their genetically modified seeds) and organizations like the American Seed Trade Organization, who promote hybrid and genetically altered food and seed.  It opened the door to a whole new realm of gardening for me.

While I don’t have time, here, to go into all of the commotion about heirlooms, GMO’s, hybrids, and the like (look for a post in the future, though), suffice it to say that I now have the answer to what happened to my favorite old-fashioned sweet peas.  I was partly correct in assuming that the problem lie in the DNA of the daughter plants.  According to Bountiful Gardens, “the plants you get when you buy hybrid seeds (seeds from the first generation of a cross between two related varieties) are very uniform and predictable… however, the next generation of plants won’t be so predictable because it is not a stabilized variety.  Hybrids are like mutts, whose puppies might all be different.” Aha!  Now I know what you’re talking about.  I’ve always had mutts for pets and it’s true:  you simply cannot predict what the pups are going to look like – it all depends on how their DNA is arranged.  With a variety of genetic information available, chances are, none of the younglings is going to look exactly like its parent. Hybrid plants are no different in that sense.  And, although there is nothing wrong or bad about how they are made, it is impossible for the gardener to predict what future generations of the parent plant will look, smell, taste, grow, etc.  like.  In my case, since my sweet pea seeds were hybrids, if I’d wanted to get the same color and smell of the parent plants back, I would have had to have bought an entirely new packet of seed for planting in the following season.  So, with hybrid seeds, if you want to keep the original characteristics of a plant you love, you pretty much have to plant only first generation seeds (making you dependent on the seed companies, like Monsanto, who develop the seed).

Not so with heirloom seed, however, which allows gardeners to save their own seed and produce future generation plants that are very much alike their parent plant.  In the plant world, heirloom, open-pollinated seed, are like “poodles”, according to Bountiful Gardens.   As Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis puts it, “when one breeds poodles with poodles …only poodles will be produced… a poodle is the end of the line for a dog—there is not enough variety left for anything different to develop.”  According to Bountiful Gardens, heirloom seeds have been around for a long time – at least 50 years.  “Their seed has been stabilized”.  So, as they explain,  “every time you plant that kind of seed, the plants give similar results” with only “slight variations”.

Baker Creek carries seeds that date back to the 19th century and from all over the world.  I love reading about the history of  these seeds.  It’s incredible to know that the fruits and vegetables growing in my garden may have also grown in Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello,  in someone’s back yard in the former Soviet Union, or in a farmer’s plot in Iraq.

While I am new at seed saving and am learning that there’s quite a bit more to it than just letting a plant go to seed at the end of the season and collecting the little kernels, I am hopeful that by using heirloom, open-pollinated seeds now, I will be able to grow next generation plants that are (close to) identical images of their parents.

I’m certainly looking forward to this coming spring, when the old spice mix of sweet peas return to my garden, where I planted an heirloom variety last year.  I’m expecting to, once again, enjoy relaxing in my chair while I take in the sweet and spicy scent of the vibrantly colored blooms that mimic the petals of a plant whose origin dates back to 1901, and daydream about what kind of garden they must have grown up in and what a wonderful woman it surely must have been who took great care in preserving them.