It’s Still Just Dirt, The Tillsonburg News – February 2018
by Angela Lassam
Gardening has gone full circle and renewed interest is rising especially with the millennials. They are looking to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Knowledge through social media has made it easy to find out where food comes from and its content. They are looking to their childhood memories and this is where heirloom seeds can take a part. The seed companies are offering more of these seeds every year making it easier for gardeners both old and new to grow them.
Gardeners who know heirloom seeds know they are valuable to them for their hardiness, disease and pest resistance and there is no need for chemicals making them organic too. Heirloom produce appears to be more flavourful, and colourful (grocery store produce is dull and plastic-like in comparison). It is also a fact they have a higher nutritional value.
As the word indicates they must originate from 1950 or before to get this title. Many originate much earlier and some go back as far as biblical times where it is said grape vines were found on the walls of the city of Babylon. Many people had a pastime of gardening years ago. People today are returning to experimenting growing their own fruit and vegetables and in turn helping the environment by encouraging the natural diversity our planet needs A garden can be at least two degrees cooler than any paved area so why not grow food and not grass to reap other benefits.
Heirloom seeds are generally open-pollinated by nature through birds, insects and weather. Seeds can be saved for the following year but may not replicate the same due to some cross pollination. This could be an interesting task to encourage children to go forward in gardening.
There is a Millennium Seed Bank Partnership ( also known as the International Conservation Project) which in 1996 was established for the insurance against extinction of plants by storing seeds for future use. Over a billion seeds had been secured by 2007 and by 2015 13 per cent of the world species had been saved. The program grew quickly and became international in 2001 and is ongoing.
Colour is one attribute for heirloom varieties with tomatoes being a good example. There is even a striped green tomato called Green Zebra. Many heirloom vegetables are bright making any table presentation more pleasing to the eye. Chefs are using them more now as they become popular and easier to source.
Another reason to plant heirlooms is they are GMO free and generally organic. The growing time to maturity is normally longer giving gardeners more time to enjoy them.
The seed catalogues are a good source for specific names to look for. Here are just a few with the reason behind their name. In depression times (1920s) a gardener grew tomatoes for sale when he became unemployed. He made enough money to pay off his mortgage and subsequently the name of that tomato was Mortgage Lifter and is still available today. Carrots came from the Netherlands in the 17th century. A common variety is the Nantes Coreless. Queen Victoria named a potato after Prince Albert when potatoes arrived in England. Cabbage (Copenhagen Market and Danish Ballhead) commonly used for sauerkraut and coleslaw came to America from Europe. Captain Cook’s ship doctor used sauerkraut for wounds and as a preventive for gangrene. Cucumber, a member of the gourd family came with Christopher Columbus from Spain in the 16th century. A most famous pickling cucumber is the Chicago Pickling.
Heirloom seeds have been proven for their ease to grow without all the downfalls of newer hybrids and the value of the biodiversity the world needs.
I hope everyone can attend at least one of the upcoming garden shows to jumpstart Spring. Stratford Garden Festival is March 1st-4th and Canada Blooms in Toronto is March 9th-18th. The theme this year is ‘ Let’s go to the Movies’.
The next monthly meeting for the Tillsonburg Horticultural Society will be on Tuesday March 6th @ 7.30pm in the Senior Centre Auditorium Tillsonburg Community Complex. The speaker is Farlee See from Moores Water Gardens Port Stanley talking all about water gardening. Everyone welcome. Non-members $2 per meeting or join for extra benefits. Visit us at www.tillsonburghorticultural.ca or Facebook Tillsonburghorticultural for more information.