Every seed has a story to tell. One tomato seed sown in your garden may reveal the rich ancestry of an heirloom and another seed the narrative of 20th century commercial agriculture.
Heirloom seeds have been passed down from generation to generation. Each grower, in turn, has sown the seeds, cultivated the tomato, and selected ripe fruit from which to harvest seeds to replant. In doing so, intentionally or not, the gardener has become a plant breeder. Have they chosen a tomato that was larger than the rest for meaty flavorful sandwich slices? Or, did they save seed from a tomato vine whose fruit ripened the earliest, or withstood a blight? With heirloom seeds, which are open-pollinated and breed true-to-type, the sowers add another chapter to the story.
The vegetable, flower, and herb seeds available today have different origins. Hybrid seeds, resulting from a static cross between two distinct parent plants, were introduced in the 1920s. Hybrids were overwhelmingly adopted in agriculture due to their perceived vigor and uniformity. They now dominate the seed scene—and are largely bred for commercial traits such as increased yields, compatibility with mechanized harvest, and packability for long-distance shipping.
The world’s food supply is dependent on hybrid varieties and the farmers who grow them must continually buy seed year after year. Hybrid seeds do not breed true-to-type and therefore cannot be saved. This has contributed to the consolidation of the seed industry and the staggering loss of crop diversity on a global scale.
We’re excited to offer an array of heirloom seeds from SeedSavers Exchange. They conserve and promote the endangered culturally diverse garden and food crop heritage of America for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds. This spring you can help promote biodiversity by choosing to grow open-pollinated and heirloom seed—adding your chapter to the story.