Heirloom vegetables, those old, open-pollinated varieties that have stood the test of time are among the finest vegetables ever known. What draws many gardeners to heirlooms is their flavor. A tomato that tastes like a real tomato, corn that tastes like it did back in the day, rich and ripe with undeniable flavor. Not only are these heirlooms worth growing for their mouth-watering taste, but they keep us connected to the past. Many heirloom vegetables have been around for several generations and are by far tastier than other cultivars. If you’ve ever eaten them, you’re sure to want to grow them, and if you grow heirloom vegetables, you will almost certainly want to save the seeds to keep these precious varieties around for generations to come.
But just as different gardeners have different ideas about gardening, they also have different ideas about what constitutes an old variety as an heirloom. To some, nearly all old-time varieties are heirlooms, but to others, varieties can be old without being heirlooms. Either way once you taste one, you’ll never forget it. Unfortunately, fewer gardeners are saving heirloom seed these days, and as a result, many prized heirloom vegetables are being lost. Such a shame to see a part of our heritage gone forever, a taste of the past never to be tasted again. However, there are still many seed companies, as well as individual seed savers, that offer hundreds of heirloom vegetables to gardeners. Some are standard varieties, and others are harder to find varieties. Nevertheless, even with more companies now carrying old varieties, devout heirloom gardeners prefer to keep saving their own seeds, ensuring their supply will hold up against time as those who came before.
Tomatoes are probably the most popular heirloom vegetable (or fruit); however, there are other vegetables just as good, found in all colors, sizes, and shapes. Nearly all crops from peppers, corn, beans, and kale to eggplant, squash, lettuce, and potatoes can be grown with heirloom seeds. When looking for heirloom varieties, you may want to research seed companies carefully beforehand to find one that is reputable. If you’re new to the whole seed-saving process, especially with heirloom varieties, there are a few things to consider before you begin. For instance, don’t try to save any seeds from hybrid vegetables. They won’t produce the same plants. Choose only the healthiest, most productive and flavorful vegetables for seed saving. Allow the seeds to fully ripen before harvesting. Mature seeds are more likely to produce vigorous growth, and strong, healthy plants produce healthier seeds. When you store your seeds, make sure that you label your collection clearly. You don’t want to mix them up with other, less favorable vegetables.
There’s nothing quite as tasty as homegrown vegetables, unless of course it’s an heirloom variety.