Chef Benita McCoy Lyons
As the Consumer becomes more cost, health & sustainability conscious the rich history of heir looming becomes a direct connection from the family to your table. Recipes that are handed down for generations, ecological seeds such as flowers & vegetables are finding their way back into our homes & gardens. Most of these varieties are such hard finds on the local supermarket shelves that we are using alternative sources. Here are some suggestions on heir looming that may be resourceful.
What is an Heirloom seed?
While people have been talking about heirloom vegetables for more than a decade, they have yet to reach an agreement on exactly what an heirloom variety is. So far, experts in the field agree that heirloom vegetables are old, open-pollinated cultivars. In addition, these varieties also have a reputation for being high quality and easy to grow. Perhaps it is best to discuss the details.
Just how old a cultivar has to be to be an heirloom is open to discussion. Some authorities say heirloom vegetables are those introduced before the 1950’s, when modern plant breeders introduced the first hybrids developed from inbred lines. While there are good reasons to use 1951 as a cut-off, many heirloom gardeners focus on varieties that date from the 1920s and earlier. A few, especially those re-creating World War II Victory Gardens, add introductions from the 1920s, 1930s, and the early 1940s. While some first-rate open pollinated cultivars were introduced after 1951, few gardeners include them with the heirlooms.
Just as different gardeners have different ideas about how old heirlooms are, they also have different ideas about which old varieties are heirlooms. To some, nearly all the old-time varieties are heirlooms. To others, varieties can be old without being heirlooms. They exclude, for example, commercial varieties and those that appeared in the seed trade, limiting heirlooms to those local or regional varieties that were passed down from generation to generation of gardeners.
Wish to Heir loom? Join a society or just start saving seed for future generations to come.