Friday, March 8, 2013

Heirloom Seeds and Seed Storage

Heirloom Seeds and Seed Storage

(Seed Savers)

Heirloom and/or open-pollinated seeds are gaining in popularity.  They are non-GMO (not genetically modified).  If or when crops fail on a large scale (we've already seen this happening) it's good to be able to grow our own food and be self-sufficient.  The problem is, a lot of the plants and seeds on the market today have been genetically altered and are hybrid.  The seeds can't be saved and replanted for the same unaltered crop.  Also, genetically modified seeds are often patented so that you can't save the seeds to replant them anyway.  I myself would rather eat food that hasn't been manipulated by humans if possible.  Besides that, I think, when they mess with the plants too much, there could be complications later that they didn't foresee that will cause major problems.  Many people today are turning to heirloom seeds and stocking up on these.  Once you buy them, you can save the seeds and replant them year after year.  No need to buy anymore of the seeds!  That's great!  I'm looking at it as a good investment.  I'm not an expert on this, but I've been learning a lot about it and wanted to pass on some of what I have learned.  Feel free to leave comments or suggestions at the bottom.  You don't have to sign into anything, and it will be labeled "anonymous".  :)

A very popular catalog for heirloom and open-pollinated seeds is Seed Savers Exchange.  It's a nonprofit organization.  You can request a free catalog.  (click here)
I want to quote a few things from the Seed Savers catalog:

"Why is Preserving Agricultural Biodiversity Important?  We are dependent on plants for everything from food to fiber and shelter.  A vibrant, diverse plant world is necessary for our survival, but that world is increasingly threatened by climate change, habitat loss, and exploitation.  The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership estimates that 60,000 to 100,000 plant species today are threatened with extinction.  When a plant variety disappears, it's potential to aid us in the future is lost forever.  The importance of institutions like Seed Savers Exchange is clear.  Without deliberate efforts to save seed varieties before they disappear, the global community may be vulnerable to calamity."

"An open-pollinated (OP) variety is one that breeds true from seed, meaning the seed saved from the parent plant will grow offspring with the same characteristics.  OP seed is produced by allowing a natural flow of pollen between plants of the same variety." 

"Heirloom varieties are OP varieties with a long history of being cultivated and saved within a family or group.  They have evolved by natural or human selection over time."

"A hybrid variety does not breed true from seed; hybrid seed is produced by crossing two different parent varieties of the same species.  Hybrids do not remain true in generations after the initial cross and cannot be saved from generation to generation unchanged."

"Genetic modification is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genetic make-up, resulting in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.  Sometimes, genetic modification is done by manipulating the sequence of genes within an organism's genome.  However, many GMOs are transgenic, or manipulated to contain a gene from another species altogether."

From Wikipedia:  "Genetically modified foods (GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically, genetically modified crops.  GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques..."

This is another popular seed catalog that I have heard of and ordered a copy of:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  You can request a free catalog from them also.  (click here)

I saw a mention of this company, Fedco Seeds.  I'm not familiar with them at all, but you can check them out if you want.  (click here)
If you know of any other good heirloom seed catalogs, let us know in the comments below.    I'm preparing an order to send into Seed Savers myself. 
Something to keep in mind when planting heirloom seeds and planning to save the seeds is, if you want to keep the seeds pure, unaltered in any way, you have to be aware of other certain plants close by that can cross-pollinate with them, if they are a kind of plant that tends to cross-polinate with others; so you will want to do a search and read up on that. 

Storing seeds
Here are a few seed storing tips from Tipnut.  For the original article... (click here)

"After collecting them from the garden (from herbs, vegetables and flowers), dry them at room temperature on racks or on large sheets of paper for about a week to ensure they hold no moisture. After drying, separate them from their pods or flower heads by shaking them into large paper bags. Sift out the dried plant bits then pour seeds into recycled paper envelopes or print off some paper packets. Mark on the packets the type of plant and the date they were harvested. Next take a Kleenex tissue and pour about 1 tablespoon of powdered dry milk in the center, fold the tissue up so you have a little packet, place this in the bottom of a clean glass jar. The powdered milk will act as a desiccant inside the jar and help to absorb moisture and help provide a dry environment. Next fill the jar with your packets and seal the jar shut. Keep the jar in a cool dark place to keep the seeds dormant, the back of the refrigerator is an ideal location."
  • Do your collecting when it’s dry and sunny several hours after the morning dew has disappeared (early afternoon), the less moisture the better.
  • Once you’ve harvested them, avoid storing them in a humid room while they’re drying at room temperature (even the kitchen can be too humid because of the cooking activity).
  • If you have long winters and they will be stored for several months, replace the dried milk packet once or twice with a fresh packet.

Here are some seed saving tips from Martha Stewart.  For the original article...  (click here)

Seed Saving How-To1. Cut the fruit or vegetable open and extract the seeds.

2. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse with warm water. Blot the seeds with a paper towel. Lay the seeds out on a paper plate labeled with the variety name.

3. Allow the seeds to dry at room temperature in a well-ventilated place, keeping them out of direct sunlight for up to three weeks.

4. Once the seeds have dried, place them in a glassine envelope. Download and print the seed label template with a photo label of your fruit or vegetable before it was cut up, and attach to glassine envelope with double-sided tape. If kept in an air-tight container and placed in the refrigerator, these seeds will be good for at least six years.

Some seeds aren't ready to be harvested when the fruit/vegetable is.  Here is some information from an article on how to save tomato seeds.  For the original article... (click here)

"Wash your heirloom tomatoes, then cut it in half across the middle (not the stem end). Gently squeeze tomato seeds and juice into a labeled glass or plastic container.  Fill containers about half full, then set them out of direct sun in an area where you won't be bothered by the ripening odor or fruit flies.  Allow the seed mixture to sit until the surface is partially covered with whitish mold (in three to five days). In warm climates, you may need to add a little water midway through the process to keep the seeds afloat. Scrape off the white mold with a spoon, being careful not to remove seeds.  Fill the container with water, then stir; the good seeds will sink to the bottom.  Pour off and discard floating seeds and pulp. Repeat until the good seeds are clean. Pour the cleaned seeds into a fine strainer; rinse and drain.  Sprinkle seeds onto a plate and allow them to dry for one to three days, depending on the weather. Keep them out of direct sun. To make sure they dry thoroughly and don't stick together, stir twice a day.  Store dried seeds in a cool, dry, dark place in individually labeled airtight containers such as glass canning or baby food jars until planting time next spring."

If you want to read more, here is a nice article on heirloom seeds.  (click here)

Here are a couple articles on "Seed Saving 101".  (click here) (and here)

Here is a list of how long seeds can be expected to last in "well-stored" conditions from

Update: I thought it might be a nice idea to put a couple seeds of different kinds in my bug out bag as an extra little stash.  I wanted to still label them but not have to use little bags or something for just a couple of a lot of different kinds of seeds.  Then, I remembered seeing a tip on Pinterest how you can make seed strips for planting using newspaper strips and Elmer's glue, so I used that idea.  :)  You can still write what they are on the strips.  I'll roll them up and put them in a little bag.  Just rip it into sections when you want to use them and plant them with the paper.  

Update- found this page that lists heirloom seed suppliers: (click here)
..and another list, non GMO seeds...  (click here)

Thanks for checking out my blog.  :)


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