Saving Heirloom Seeds
and Taking back the Power from Monopolies
Saving Heirloom Seeds.
What is the fuss about heirloom seeds and seed
Well back in the mid 80s in Australia and the USA,
people were horrified to see that seed companies were beginning to
patent seeds. The open-pollinating varieties were disappearing off the
shelves and hybrid varieties were replacing them. And worse, from 1984
the US government, have made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to save seed.
All farmers in Iraq now have to buy their seeds from transnational
US farmers who buy genetically modified (GM) seeds are not allowed to
save the seed,or give it to a neighbor. These GM seeds have
been patented and force the farmer to buy new seed every planting
season. It is illegal to save GM seeds and these companies employ the
Police" to spy on farmers to make sure that they are towing the line.
If not, they are either leaned on heavily and threatened with legal
action, or actually sued for non-compliance and breaking their signed
contract that is drawn-up between the company and the farmer when the
GM seed is purchased.
In addition, it appears that seed
companies are lucrative business for those wanting to create monopolies
and have attracted the investment of corporations such as Shell, ICI,
Ciba Geigy and Volvo
worth more than $50 billion in worldwide seed
" It is estimated that Seminis controls 40 percent of
the U.S. vegetable seed market and 20 percent of the world
market—supplying the genetics for 55 percent of the lettuce on U.S.
supermarket shelves, 75 percent of the tomatoes, and 85 percent of the
peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash,
melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas. The company’s biggest
revenue source comes from tomato and peppers seeds, followed by
cucumbers and beans."
It is time to take back the power.
Companies should not have a monopoly on our food sources like this. By
growing open-pollinating seeds, and buy saving your seeds you are
taking back control of your food and ensuring that your vegetables are
seeds, used for
that were enjoyed because they were easy to grow, or tasted great are
no longer available. Instead seeds are replaced because they travel
well, don't ripen too quickly or have a harder skin and don't bruise
on transit. The fact that they taste like blotting paper
People throughout the world are
fighting back and forming networks of people who are
save the open-pollinated
seeds and swap them among themselves.
where we come in. We have over 100,000 people who visit this website
every month - and the number grows each month. If we had just 10% of
that number willing to save and swap heirloom seeds what a wonderful
cyber community we could be to take back some control of our lives from
Nanny States and organizations who try and manipulate how we live our
lives, and swap and exchange with like-minded others to save our plant
Since the time man first became a farmer he as saved
seeds from his own vegetable crops. Until late 19th century, commercial
seeds were rare and expensive. The Shakers were the first to sell seeds
in plain packets.
However, now seeds are sold commercially, and commercial
seeds today are treated with anti-fungal chemicals and dyed bright
pink, green, orange etc. as you can see from the picture below.
How do Plants Make Seeds
form after your flowers or vegetables have produced flowers. If your
plants are annuals they will flower every year and seeds will follow.
Radishes and spinach for example are both annuals so you will be able
to harvest the seed every year from such plants. Root vegetables,
however, are usually binennials which means that they will produce
seeds only in the second year.
Carrots are an example of a
biennial vegetable. It will spend the first year putting down roots,
and thereby making carrots for you. The second year the plants will
produce long stalks with flowers and seeds will follow. You cannot eat
the carrots in the second year because all the goodness has not stopped
being stored in the roots, which are now hard and woody, and instead
all concentration of goodness has gone into producing the flowers and
There are other plants that are happy self-seeders.
These are plants that will happily grow again if you have missed a
vegetable in the garden the previous season, or it drops its seed so
readily that it comes up year after year, after year. Radishes,
spinach, sunflowers, tomatoes are just plants.
Open Pollinated versus
heirloom seeds are those that are the open-pollinated variety, as
already mentioned. Hybrid seeds will not breed true if you plant the
seeds again the following year. Another words, you will get some
produce from your seeds but they will be no where near the same
standard as those that grew from the original batch of seeds. Hybrids
are your designer seeds, often bred for vigor, pest resistance and
abundant crops however, after the first year the same qualities will
not be found. Often too, hybrid seeds have been bred for all of the
qualities just mentioned, but often sacrificing good taste along the
It is your heirloom seeds that can be collected year
after year giving you the same good taste and qualities you can see
again and again. It is these seeds that you want to save.
Viability of Saving Heirloom Seeds
If you have been using just a few seeds
harvest, and discarding the rest ... don't. Seeds stay viable for a
long time. Therefore it is important to know how to save your heirloom
Tomato seeds, for example, will
germinate for 5-7
years after harvest. Pepper seeds and beets will last almost as long.
Peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are good for at
least 3 years. Vine crops like squash, cucumber, and melon last 5 years
or longer, so you can afford to buy several varieties. If you wish, you
can just use a few seeds from each season's harvest and save the rest.
seeds are short-lived. Corn,
parsnip and salsify (oyster plant) are seeds that should not be kept
more than a season. Keep the leftover seeds in an envelope, mark the
month and year of harvest on each, and store them in a cool, dry place.
Saving biennial heirloom
seeds is difficult because they don't produce
seed until the second year. These include beets, carrots,
cauliflower, celery, onions and turnips. In colder climates, plants or
roots of these would have to be lifted, stored over winter, and then
reset the following spring. When one of these plants does produce
seed stalks the first year, it is not a good characteristic, and is not
wise to save the seeds. Annual crops are easier; it just takes some
patience, a little knowledge, and the need to do the right things at
the right time.
In preparation for saving seed in the
future, we have some advice on how to go about it.
When to Collect your Heirloom Seeds?
The best time to collect heirloom seeds is about
10:00 a.m. after the morning dew has dried and on a dry, sunny day.
Your herbs, flowers, fruit and vegetables should be totally dry.
How to Save your Heirloom Seeds?
Fruits that have seeds in their pulp,
and passion fruit
are best picked when the fruit is ripe and
Tomatoes too are self-pollinating and worth saving. Pick heavy bearers,
free from blight. Choose fruits that are fully ripe, not rotting.
Select fully mature fruits from eggplants,
cut open to remove the seeds and spread
thinly to dry. Eggplant seeds should be brown and will have to be
individually picked out, but for a homestead garden, only a few need to
Other fruit like red and green peppers,
squash, pumpkin and marrows
are better when picked when the fruit is
just past mature. The seeds have them had time to plump up before can
then be harvested and removed.
zucchinis, okra, sweet corn
all need to stay on the plants for a longer length of time. Here the
fruit seeds need to mature fully and develop before harvested. This
means allowing the fruit to stay until fully mature excluding a further
3 weeks before the seed is ready to be picked.
seeds are an exception. They
should not be dried but should be placed in wet sand and then
refrigerated until needed.
beans, runner beans, bush beans and
all be left on the plants so that they can completely dry out
on the plants. If wet weather sets in then it is better to remove the
seed heads and pods and dry them inside. Both beans and peas are
self-pollinating, and therefore there is little danger of crossing
To save these heirloom seeds mark
have a high yield and good pod formation. Allow the pods to dry on the
plant. Pull the plant up and hang or spread it in a well-ventilated,
dry area until the seeds are hard. Shell them and continue the drying
process by spreading the seeds in thin layers. When completely dry,
store seeds in bags or jars in a cool, dry place.
Some plants end up scattering their
seeds as they mature. If left to go to flower and then seed carrots,
parsnips, lettuce, onions
for example, all self-seed. When
the seed heads start to mature they can be placed into paper bags and
shaken every day so that the released seed falls into the bags rather
than on the soil.
Cleaning Saved Heirloom Seeds
Not all seeds are equal.
that scatter their seed don't need any attention whatsoever. They are
clean and dry and just need to be harvested and stored. However, some
seeds are very fleshy, surrounded by pulp that needs to be removed.
Tomatoes fall into this category.
Here you scoop out the flesh with a
spoon and place it in a bowl of water. Rub the flesh vigorously with
your thumb and forefinger until the flesh and seeds separate. Remove as
much of the pulp as possible, drain the water through a sieve to catch
the seeds and dry them out on a plate for about 10 days until they are
completely dry and ready for storing.
Another way of saving
tomato seeds is to cut open
the tomatoes and squeeze out the pulp with the seeds into a can. Let
the mass ferment for 2-3 days at room temperature, stirring
occasionally. The seeds will separate and settle to the bottom. Pour
off the pulp, wash seeds in clean water and spread out thinly to dry.
Stir seeds occasionally until completely dry.
Saving Flower Seeds
course, it isn't just vegetable seeds that you can save, you can also
save seeds from flowers as well as fruit. With regards to flowers,
often it is better to just allow the flowers to go past their prime
until the flowers have died off and the seed heads are drying. The take
a pair of scissors and cut off the whole flower heads.
for example are excellent flowers for seed saving. Keep the flower
heads in paper bags over the winter and then when it is planting time
again, you can now break out the seeds from the flower heads, although
during the time that they have been sitting in the bags a lot of the
seed will have already been ejected from the seed head. When you think
that you can get, on average, 100 zinnia seeds from just one flower
head, there really isn't any excuse for having to go out and buy
another packet of zinnias after you have purchased the first bag of
Storing Saved Heirloom Seeds
When saving heirloom seeds you will
need to think of the best way to store them so that the seed doesn't
spoil before you want to use it the following season. My preferred
method is to use paper
bags and store
them in a dark pantry or
Some people also store them in dark glass jars,
transpire, as they are still living and this can cause moisture to
build up in the jars and then spoiling the seeds. When seeds stored in
a paper bag
transpire, the transpiration is easily absorbed by the paper of the
bag. When you store the seeds in glass or plastics, you run the risk of
your seeds going moldy.
If you have no option but to use glass
or plastic, then the best method is to place a layer of silica gel at
the bottom of each jar or container and line with some kitchen paper
towels. The fill your containers and jars with your seeds. When your
seeds to transpire they will turn the silica gel from its normal blue
color to pink. When this happens, remove the seeds, and replace with
fresh silica gel until your seeds need to be planted.
Storing saved heirloom seeds at a cool
best. Seeds of
vegetables will remain viable for 2-3 years under such conditions,
while those of tomatoes, cucumbers and squash will last even longer.
If you don't know when you will plant
your seeds again, they can then go into the fridge as long as they are
stored at 5°C/41°F.
If you are going to use the fridge, storing them in glass jars would be
now preferable to storing them in paper bags, due to the moisture
Don't forget to label your seeds; when
they were harvested and what type of seeds they are.
Germinating your Heirloom Seeds
with the best of harvesting and storing, you will never get a 100%
germination success rate when you replant your seeds. 50-80% would be
more realistic, and will also depend on the type of flowers, herbs or
vegetables you are growing as well as whether the soil and climatic
conditions are optimal or not. As a result, it is always wise to save
more seed than you think you may need. That way, if you do get a higher
germination rate, you can easily stock up on filling your
shelves or share the produce with friends, neighbors and family.
Saving tomato seeds is a little different from other plants,
but so easy! Here you can allow your seeds to ferment, before you dry
them to make your life easier!
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Save Seeds Using Blotting Paper A good way to dry tomato, cantaloupe, and other seeds is to put them on blotting paper. They will quickly dry in this manner and will not become moldy, …
GMO or Not GMO Not rated yet How do you know when you start sharing these seeds the those among the sharers aren't GMO seeders that just want to take over or pollute the seed chain …