Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Save Your Own Vegetable Seeds

Seeds are a link to the past and are essential to our future. Each seed now in existence was grown from previous plants creating a continual link with humanity for generations back to its wild plant ancestors. The close association and selection by different groups of people, each with specific tastes and ideas of good cuisine, have created a vast number and variety of edible plants. Many of these are disappearing as more and more people move to the city or are distanced from growing and saving seed for their own gardens and yards.

Imagine if we suddenly did not have oil for farming. We could not drive the tractors to plant large tracts of land, cultivate, or harvest it. Vast tracts of farmed land would become barren in one year. Historically, families planted gardens on their properties to supplement the grain that was harvested from their own fields. Today it has become a rarity to see a garden let alone a large garden like those of the past that were used to produce the greens, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables that a family would eat for an entire year. Seed was saved each year and seed from exceptional plants was traded with neighbors. This local and regional exchange created vegetable varieties that were highly adapted to local climatic conditions and resistant to the plant diseases of the area.

Today seed companies focus on selling hybrid seed often for higher prices than open pollinated varieties and discourage seed saving. Planting hybrid seed ensures that you will have to buy seed from the seed company again next year. While hybrids often have “hybrid vigor” and some disease resistant traits, they do not, in my opinion, compare to locally adapted varieties. Hybrids are created to grow well over a large region of the United States, but do not grow exceptionally well in any particular location. Open pollinated varieties that are locally adapted are better at growing in their local region and resistant to the local diseases. This process occurs through years of seed saving and selection of the best plants that grew each year. If you can find seed sources in your area, then these seeds are more likely to be resistant to the local fungi, diseases, and weather creating a more predictable crop. Saving seeds is not that hard, increases your self-reliance, and can be pretty fun.

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