When plants are allowed to reproduce naturally, they develop the ability to adapt to their local conditions which means they’re a reliable crop to grow year after year. Unfortunately, corporate agriculture relies on hybridized, and in many cases, genetically modified, or gmo plants.
This type of monoculture is bred for traveling long distances and not for their taste, and even worse, what they produce are more than likely swathed in poisonous chemicals.
A growing number of informed consumers are realizing that this negates the natural evolutionary process and is depleting the world’s biodiversity.
Thousands of vegetable and flower varieties have already been lost, some say as much as 80%, due to this reliance on commercial hybrid seeds that are eroding the gene pool, resulting in less hardy, more vulnerable plants.
We’ve all heard about the potato famine in Ireland. We should learn from this historical mistake they made of only growing one type of crop and be very careful to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself in the present time or the future.
If you raise and save your seeds, you are producing seed from and for your garden. By personal and careful selection anyone can produce plants best suited to their climate and gardening conditions.
By growing heirloom vegetables, ones that are adaptable to local conditions, the benefits are many. Many characteristics include better flavour, no chemicals, and they become pest and disease resistance, and many can be enhanced by careful selection over a period of years.
Seeds saved from open pollinated plants are the only kind that will produce again true to type. This means they will reproduce exactly the same as their parent plant the following year. Some do require space between one another, melons are a good example of this because they can be cross pollinated if two similar varieties are planted too close together, meaning next year, those seeds may turn into something completely different than what one expected!
Tomatoes are the exception. If you avoid hybrid varieties you’ll be able to grow the same tomato from seed saved from each plant next year, even if different varieties were grown close together.
Pepper and eggplant flowers can be cross-pollinated by insects, so different varieties of these have to be separated in the garden by about 500-feet to retain the purity of those seeds.
Saving tomato seeds take a little more time. Harvest nicely ripe tomatoes from several different vines of the same variety, cut each across the middle and gently squeeze the juice and seeds into a bowl. You will note that each tomato seed is encased in a gelatinous coating. (this prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato.) Remove this coating by fermenting it. This mimics the natural rotting of the fruit and has the added bonus of killing seed borne tomato disease.
Join us at the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market this week as we learn all about saving seeds.
We’re thrilled to have Kaarina Blackie at the market. She’ll be demonstrating how to save seeds from heirloom vegetables, discussing the difference between heirloom and hybrid, and encouraging the use of heirloom seeds in your garden!
Kaarina’s focus is mainly on heirloom tomatoes. This year she grew 54 different varieties! Much of her demo focuses on tomato seeds but she’ll discuss many other varieties as well. She will also have some seeds on hand that are already fermenting and will explain the best drying and storage methods to maintain the good health and viability of the seeds.
Look for Kaarina to share info about the many other easy vegetable varieties to propagate such as: squashes, zucchinis, cucumbers, melons, watermelons, peppers, beans, lettuces, rapini, amaranth and radishes.
Kaarina will offer some free heirloom tomato seeds to those who are interested, as well as the many books and photographs she had to help people decide which tomatoes they would like to grow.
Come early and learn the basics of seed saving, and why it’s a beneficial gardening activity on so many levels.
For more information, consider a visit to these links:
• Seeds of Diversity (Canada)
• Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook
• Seed Savers (USA)