Or how becoming a mom changed my outlook on gardening.
I had never really paid attention to what kind of seed I would use in my garden until I became a mom in 2007… all of a sudden, I was responsible for another human being and that said human being relies on me to keep it healthy and protect it from the big bad world! Yikes right? That is when I started paying attention to the GMO debate, organic vs non organic debate and frankly, the more I learnt, the more it scared me. What am I giving my family to eat? How can it affect my health and theirs?
It starts with a seed
January/February is that time of the year where all the seed and plant catalogs come in… time where one daydreams about this year’s garden, what to grow, what to try… This year’s crop, its success or failure, will depend on the seeds that you buy now. Is that enough pressure for you yet??
Don’t worry, let us break it down a bit and take some stress out of the seed picking game!
What kind of seeds are out there?
As previously mentioned, some seeds are labelled GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). These seeds have been genetically changed using molecular genetics techniques (as in gene cloning and protein engineering). Basically, these plants have been modified by mankind to be more resistant to certain diseases or to produce more.
Then, you have the Hybrids – not necessarily GMO by the way! To create a hybrid, two strains of the same plant are inbred and then crossbred to give you a F1 (sometimes F2) generation of plants. Hybrids were created to highlight a certain greatness in the plant (be it a very good producer, great quality, reliability), but you cannot reuse its seeds the following year. The seeds produced by a hybrid plant won’t be true the next generation, which just means that a dominant trait from one of the parents may take over and that you may not get the same great plant/vegetable/crop again. So, if you want to save your seeds, avoid the hybrids.
Another type of seed is the Open Pollinated (OP). These seeds come from plants that are pollinated by nature (animals, wind, and insects) and have been for a long time. These seeds produce plants true to its parents so are ideal for those that would like to save seeds.
Now that we have that sorted, the next thing is the difference between a modern and heirloom (or heritage) seed.
Modern vs Heirloom
The modern seed is the one that you see in the grocery store, hardware store, wherever you buy your seeds. They are the popular ones and are picked by the company as they may produce more and may be more resistant to disease.
Heirloom (or heritage)
Now, the heirloom (heritage) seeds, they are the ones that you find in special catalogues. There is such a selection of seeds in the heirloom world! You will most likely find something “new to you” to try and discover new tastes, textures and colors. Heritage vegetables often taste better than modern ones. Although heirloom doesn’t mean organic, it often is or grow as is – being certified as organic is a big process that not every producer is willing to go through.
Ok, that was a lot of technical stuff! So, what should you get?
Ask yourself some basic questions?
Do you need to produce lots but don’t care about saving seeds? Then, the hybrids could be a good match.
Do you want to keep seeds? The, Open pollinated it has to be.
Do you want to keep seeds, have an awesome selection and great tasting produce? Heirloom all the way baby!
Guess what I am growing now?
In 2012, I tried both the modern and heirloom vegetables to see if there was a difference. I grew peas and green beans as a trial. I still remember eating a few modern peas and then the heirloom ones… and the difference in taste was incredible!
By now, I am at about 90% heirloom. I haven’t found a source of neither heirloom potatoes nor fruits yet (if you have, please share in the comments!!). If you live in Canada, I strongly recommend Heritage Harvest Seeds! Check out their website at www.heritageharvestseed.com #notaffiliated
My question to you: What kind of seed are you picking for this year’s crop?