Exploring Seeds And What They Mean

Posted: April 8, 2014

seed mandala from saved seed at Sow True SeedTraditionally people plant their crops and selectively save the seeds for traits they deem desirable. Overtime, this led to a huge selection of varieties. However, with massive changes in agriculture over the last 100 years (such a short time!), innumerable varieties and vast amounts of genetic diversity have been lost.

Many people are seeking an authentic way to garden. Wanting to pursue methods that are organic, dependable and inline with nature. They reject GMOs for numerous reasons and want to save their own seed and continue the cultural heritage that we’re close to loosing.

It can a confusing landscape to navigate: Heirloom, OP, F1, Organic, Untreated, GMOs…

Some Seed Terminology

1. Open-Pollinated (OP)

Do you know your seeds? Sow True Seed Asheville NCWhen properly saved and replanted, open-pollinated seeds will reproduce ‘true’ to the characteristics of the parent plans, linking the growers to a sustainable and sovereign food system. Each open-pollinated variety remains protected in the public domain as the common property of everyone. All Sow True Seed seeds are OP.

2. Heirloom

These are seeds that are open-pollinated varieties that were in circulation before WWII, prior to the commercial introduction of F-1 Hybrids and changes in industrial agriculture. Many heirlooms are much older and have been passed down by families and traditional cultures for generations. Some Sow True Seed seeds are heirloom and clearly marked.

3. Hybrid

When plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate (a natural process) two different varieties or species with the aim of producing an offspring (hybrid) containing the best traits of the two parents. F-1 Hybrids are the first generation seeds of this pairing and are often vigorous and productive plants, however seeds saved from hybrids and planted for a second generation (F-2) will not produce ‘true’ to the parent plants. Sow True Seed supports seed saving and does not sell any hybrid seeds.

4. Organic

Scarlet Runner Beans at Sow True Seed in Asheville NCThese are seeds grown and processed in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program. Open-pollinated and Hybrid seeds can be organic. Many small farms will use organic methods but are not certified organic because of the cost of official certification – a great example is Rise-up Rooted Farms, who supply our spring plant starts. Some Sow True Seed seeds are organic and clearly marked.

5. Untreated

Some seeds are treated with fungicides and pesticides. All Sow True Seed seeds are untreated.

6. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

This is a whole blog/book topic in itself. GMOs are different from Hybrids in that the process that results in the new variety could not have occurred. Gene splicing is used to forcibly change the genetic nature of the plant. Sow True Seed has taken the Safe Seed Pledge that pledges to not knowingly engage in the trade of genetically modified organisms.

Some Personal Favorites

October Beans at Sow True Seed Asheville NCAs the garden season gets along and you are choosing your varieties it can be overwhelming to choose which one will be best.  But never fear—there is always next year! For now, here are some varieties that are oldies and goodies, both dependable and unique that you might want to consider.

Mountaineer Half Runner Bean

Be prepared to treat this half runner as a full runner, vigorous vines will benefit from trellising and make for efficient harvesting.  It dependably produces 4 inch long tasty beans that should be harvested in a timely fashion or they will become stringy.

Dragon Tongue Bean, HEIRLOOM

Bush Bean Dragon Tongue Open Pollinated and Heirloom Variety Asheville NCA Dutch heirloom with beautiful purple streaks on light green pods.  The 7” long pods are sweet and juicy even when left on the plant a few days too long.  Its bush habit make it easy to fit into the garden and the beans are a great conversation starter for foodies and gourmets.  In addition, it can be eaten fresh, shelled or dried!

Marketmore 76 Cucumber,ORGANIC

Marketmore 76 Slicing Cucumber Open Pollinated and Organic VarietyLove eating loads of cukes in the summer? Are you a juicer?  Marketmore 76 is a great producer of long (8-9 inches!) dark green, straight fruits that are ideal for juicing, cucumber and tomato salads, leaf salads or fresh eating of any kind.  Being resistant to disease it is a great variety to grow even amongst others to assure a good cucumber harvest.

Paris Island Romaine, ORGANIC

Paris Island Romaine Letture Open Pollinated and Organic VarietyA South Carolina variety resistant to tip burn from high temperatures.  The heads are uniform and it can be used for head production or baby leaf lettuce.  If you are a little late getting your lettuce in or you like to keep some plants around as long as possible try this hardy variety.

Golden Bantum 12-row Improved Sweet Corn, HEIRLOOM

Sweet Corn Gold Bantam 12-row Improved Open Pollinated and Heirloom VarietyAn heirloom variety of sweet corn.  The 5’ stalks produce nice ­7” ears that are best for harvesting and eating (or preserving) on the same day.  Same day eating is preferable since sugars turn to starch quickly!  This variety was introduced in 1902 for its sweet flavor and more corn per ear than regular bantum.

Brown Berry Tomato

Brown Cherry Tomato Open Pollinated Variety at Sow True SeedA sweet, dark colored and robust flavored cherry tomato that makes loads of fruit on indeterminate vines.  This little beauty will grace your table or salad or be irresistible straight off the vine!  These uniquely colored tomatoes are sure to impress.

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