Every year that I garden I realize so much more just how important heirloom plants are. I know that I’m carrying on a legacy and helping to keep a variety of plant alive another year. Some of these plants are considered in danger of extinction by Slow Food USA via the Ark of Taste.
Take the Cherokee Trail of Tears for example. This one I find close to my heart since we live in former Cherokee land.
The Cherokee Trail of Tears bean memorializes the forced relocation of the Cherokee Indians in the mid-nineteenth century. They carried this bean throughout this infamous walk, which became the death march for thousands of Cherokees; hence the Trail of Tears.’*
All heirlooms have a little story behind them, whether they were the county fair winner 70 years ago or have a tremendous impact on the lives of a people like the Trail of Tears bean. We even try to “grow” heritage chickens to keep the lineage going for another few years.
Some may call me a plant snob (including Hubby), but I’m fine by that. When I plant heirlooms I’m free to save my own seed without fear of losing any of the original plant’s qualities as you can with hybrids. I know that my tomato plants will be disease resistant and have great flavor. I also know that I’m avoiding GMOs and will avoid repercussion from any companies by saving seed legally or illegally.
If you plan to save seed, avoid any hybrids. I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself. I’ve bought plants thinking I was purchasing an heirloom, only to find it was an F1 hybrid. Ack. You can’t save seed from an F1 hybrid because the resulting seedlings will not come true to seed. I bought turkeys thinking they were an heirloom breed, but they’re a hybrid and grow too big to reproduce naturally (and I am not about to assist them). Besides, turkey’s don’t require a paintbrush to reproduce as most open-pollinated plants do….
Do you grow heirloom or rare plants in your gardens?
You can also find me blarging away at Unearthing this Life where I ramble about living with a dozen chicken, 3 guinea, and 3 turkey – and I’m not referring to family.