Many of the seedlings we sell are heirloom varieties, meaning they are open-pollinated, old-time plants, much-loved varieties that have been passed down in families and communities for years.
Most of the vegetable varieties you see in the supermarket and the big nurseries are hybrid varieties - they were made by plant breeders crossing two compatible types of plants to get the best features of both parents in the offspring. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but plant hybridizers tend to design their crosses for mass production - plants that are easy to harvest mechanically, hold up well to travel and distribution, and have a consistent, pleasing appearance. When growing vegetables on a small scale, you can choose heirloom varieties that were carefully selected to produce the best tasting produce possible!
Looking through an heirloom seed catalog, you will be struck by the many thousands of different varieties of your favorites vegetables you can find. Cayenne peppers over a foot long, warty blue pumpkins, a dozen different types of basil all with different aromas, cucumbers that look like lemons or potatoes, and tomatoes nearly every color of the rainbow. Grow something you’ve never seen before!
In the era of mass production farming, fewer and fewer seed companies are in existence, and those that continue to operate offer fewer plant varieties. Heirloom plants contain a treasure trove of genetic diversity that will be lost forever if people don’t continue to pass them along. Many beloved heirloom plants have been brought back from the brink of extinction by people with a passion for keeping these plants around for future generations. When you grow heirlooms in your own garden, you are directly participating in the preservation of these endangered plants, helping ensure that they will be enjoyed for years to come, and in maintaining the genetic diversity critical to the health of our food crop.
Heirloom varieties represent the rich history of the gardeners who came before us, and continuing to grow them keeps their work alive, and connects us to our past in a very tangible way. Many of these plants carry fascinating stories of the migrants who carried them to new homes, of the communities who treasured and passed them along, and the people who created them.