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LIFESTYLE: Heritage Seeds by Ali Burdon of Very Berry Handmade


If you’re new to vegetable growing, you might think that heirloom or heritage seeds are a marketing gimmick from producers keen to promote them with a nostalgic, ‘these are the seeds grown by great- great-granddad’ marketing angle but there’s more to it than that.


Most ordinary seeds are hybrids - produced by controlled cross- pollination and if you try saving and growing seeds from hybrid plants, you get odd plants and poor yields. Heritage seeds, meanwhile, are produced from open-pollinated plants and grow true to type. This means that vegetable gardeners can save their own seed - selecting from plants that have done well for them.


Kate McEvoy from Real Seeds, a company selling only open- pollinated


seeds (heirloom and


more recent varieties), told me, “Until recently, every gardener in the world saved their own seed and was, therefore, a plant breeder. They simply saved the seed of the plants that did best for them, and which they liked most. Although simple, this was efficient; each gardener was


28 | ukhandmade | Autumn 2011


maintaining a slightly different strain of each vegetable and this made for a huge living gene bank that was very resilient against disease or climate change.


She continues, “Now, we have thrown this all away. In the past 40 years, almost all these adaptable local strains have been lost. Gardeners have forgotten how to save their own seed. They are sold hybrids, where every


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