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Who doesn’t love a good story? Well, a story is what you get with each purchase of an heirloom variety from Eden Brothers. Every rare cultivar has a history of its unique beginnings in space and time.
Whether you’re a new gardener or a seasoned green thumb, you might be wondering exactly what sets heirloom seeds apart from other seed varieties. Generally speaking, an heirloom vegetable, flower, or herb is a cultivar that was bred at least fifty years ago. Heirloom varieties were typically developed by a family or community and passed down through the generations, giving each heirloom variety a unique story to go along with its often distinctive look and taste.
The term "heirloom" simply means that a given variety of seeds is open-pollinated and has been producing the same fruit as grown on the parent plant for 50 or more years. Grown for a variety of reasons, heirloom seeds give us historical interest, access to wider vegetable varieties, and groups us with other vigilant gardeners who also wish to save seeds from year to year. Heirloom seeds produce flowers and vegetables that have been passed down for generations for their good taste, vivid colors, pest resistance, and other beneficial traits.
What is special about heirloom seeds?
Heirloom seeds produce abundant gardens that give back season after season. By design, heirloom varieties are open-pollinated. Rather than have human hands or tools cross two different parents—as is the case with hybrid varieties—heirloom cultivars are pollinated by natural processes—including insects, birds, and even the wind. Because heirloom varieties are capable of preserving their own genetics, these varieties produce seed that carries the same traits as their parents. The home gardener can easily save seeds from heirloom varieties and plant those seeds again the following season for plants that come back true.
Storing heirloom seeds for future use
If you don’t plan to plant your heirloom seeds the same season that you buy them, you can store the seeds and preserve their vitality for years to come. For short-term storage, keep heirloom seeds in their packet in a cool, dark, dry place at home. To keep heirloom seeds for more than a year, place the seeds in an airtight container and store in a refrigerator—seeds will keep up to a decade this way. But keep in mind that heirloom seeds do lose their viability over time, so for the best germination rates, you’ll want to purchase heirloom seed packed for the season you plan to plant it.
Sow heirloom seeds for an exceptionally beautiful, wonderfully flavorful, and superiorly nutritious garden. Sow them the same way that you would sow any other seed. Some heirloom varieties have a reputation for being difficult to grow—but in truth, hybrids are just easier to grow. Hybrids are bred to have disease resistance, higher yields, and other improved characteristics—while heirloom varieties are a lot more unpredictable. But still, some would say, all the more rewarding for the effort that goes into cultivating these treasured varieties.
How to plant with heirloom seeds
So why buy heirloom seeds? Heirloom seeds are the most flavorful, nutritious vegetables of all. Heirloom flowers have a depth and a beauty to them that is unique. Heirloom herbs have been cultivated for generations to have superior flavor and medicinal properties. Grow heirloom seeds this year, and you’ll be hooked—you won’t be able to help it but come back for more. Fill your garden with our selection of heirloom, open-pollinated, organic, rare, and hard-to-find flower, vegetable, and herb seeds! Learn how by reading our planting guides for seeds and bulbs in Gardening 101.