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12:34 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Saving our heirloom seed heritage

Courtesy photo<p>
These are some of the vegetables that people can produce from heirloom seeds.

Courtesy photo<p> These are some of the vegetables that people can produce from heirloom seeds.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This is the second in a series of articles leading up to the April 24-25 native plant sale at the Highlands Center for Natural History near Prescott.)

As hybrid and genetically modified seeds take over the marketplace and our gardens, we may enjoy a few benefits such as a new color or improved, short-run disease resistance, supposedly improvements on the original plant. But to "improve" a plant in one way usually requires the subtraction of an original characteristic. Generally hybridized versions sacrifice fragrance in flowers, flavor in vegetables, and potency in herbs.

Benefits of the heirloom plant community are the diversity, the wonderful variations in color, shape, size and most importantly - taste! A lot of gardeners that try heirloom seeds find that the taste is the most compelling reason to continue and expand their plantings. They are amazed to find that different tomato varieties actually taste different, unlike the seedlings that they have gotten in the past. This opens up a new world of gardening - one of planting for the kitchen, and planning menus around the garden. Stephen Scott of Terroir Seeds LLC says "the appeal of growing your own garden is to supply the freshest and best tasting ingredients for your meals!"

"An example of the many hard-to-find seeds is Aunt Molly's Husk Tomato (aka ground cherry). This heirloom is not actually a cherry, but rather a small ground tomato. This fruit was found recorded in horticultural literature in 1837 in Pennsylvania and are still common today at roadside stands in late summer. This outstanding Polish variety is prized for its clean flavor, with hints of vanilla and pineapple. Because of their high pectin count, the ground cherries can be used for preserves, pies, over ice cream or in fresh fruit salads. This and more information can be found on the Terroir Seeds website at www.underwoodgardens.com.

"Heirloom and Open-Pollinated Plants, Saving Our Vegetable Heritage" a workshop presented by Cindy and Stephen Scott during the Grow Native! Spring Plant Sale and Educational Festival at the Highlands Center for Natural History on Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 10:00 am. You will learn about the unique varieties available of heirloom, open-pollinated and rare seeds for vegetable, herbs, and flowers. Why they are important and how you can harvest and save your own seeds to help preserve their genetic heritage.

Cindy Scott has her degree in greenhouse management, she helped developed the Grow Native! Plant Sale and Educational Festival during her tenor at the Highlands Center. Their heirloom and open-pollinated seed company specializes in rare and unusual heirloom, open-pollinated seeds for vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Many of these can be used for medicinal purposes. Please join the Scott's for this informative workshop at 10:00 am, and visit their booth at the Vendor Fair for more information. Seeds will be available for purchase.

(This is the second in a series of articles leading up to the April 24-25 native plant sale at the Highlands Center for Natural History near Prescott.)