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When I began this blog I shared with my readers that I was going to plant everything from seed in 2012. It would be a first. And, with the exception of three pepper plants, everything in my garden was grown from seed last year. Making the promise to grow everything from seed motivated me to expand my seed buying options, and I turned to seed companies that grow and sell heirlooms.

Pink heirloom potatoes picked up at the farmers' market. Delicious and a great color to get one particular child to try them ;).

Pink heirloom potatoes picked up at the farmers’ market. Delicious and a great color to get one particular child to try them.

Heirlooms are far more interesting than the typical varieties you find in the grocery stores. Grocery store veggies are often grown from hybrids that produce fruit and vegetables that can withstand mechanical harvesting, are stronger for transport, don’t blemish as easily, or are resistant to certain pests. Genetically modified crops are designed to resist particular pesticides or herbicides. These varieties are not bred for a particularly rich flavor or color. They are bred for mass production, transport, and a good shelf life at the grocery store.

Heirlooms, on the other hand, provide a dazzling array of color and are packed with flavor. You can find varieties that were bred for your particular climate and the pickings are seemingly endless, although not as endless as they once were. Heirlooms are open-pollinated crop varieties that come with a story, almost always connected to a particular family.

Heirloom Carrots

Heirloom carrots purchased at the farmers’ market.

But, maybe most importantly, by planting these kinds of crops I become an active participant in supporting crop diversity. I buy most of my seeds from Seeds Saver Exchange. I love that they are a non-profit and encourage people to not only plant their seed varieties, but to share them as well. They, as I do, see preserving as many crop varieties as possible as a food security issue. The more we have, the more protected we are in the face of catastrophic events. In an age where the seeds for most of industrial agriculture’s crops are owned by a few agribusiness companies, I can’t imagine planting anything other than seed that were meant to be shared.

The great Vandana Shiva said, “If they control the seed, they control the food. They know it. It is strategic. It’s more powerful than bombs; It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world.”

She also says, “Seeds are our mother.”

Yes. And yes.

So planting heirloom seeds is more than just a treat for my dinner plate. They are another small way I participate in changing our food system.

Chersonskaya Seeds

Chersonskaya seeds

And to that, this year I declare that I am finally going to put in the time to learn to save seeds properly. I am thinking it is easier than I anticipate it to be. I am going to start with the Chersonskaya squash I planted last summer. I noticed it is not being offered this year in the Seed Saver’s Exchange catalogue. I will also be saving tomato seeds, Cabin in particular. This variety was given to me by another blogger, Jimmy Cracked Corn, with the hopes that the people who received them would spread the seeds around. And, that I will do!

The more people growing a greater diversity of vegetables, the more interesting our dinner plates. The more people growing a greater diversity of vegetables, the better likelihood that culturally diverse varieties are preserved. The more people growing a greater diversity of vegetables, the less of a stranglehold large corporations have on our food supply.