Food Preservation

What Are Heirloom Seeds and Why Have Them? How they could Ensure your Survival

fresh garden vegetables in wicker basket with watering can

When prepping, nothing is more important than having a stockpile of food on hand. Often times, that means growing your own fruits and vegetables, in which case you’ll also want a supply of heirloom seeds. What are heirloom seeds and why should I have them? Below is some information you will need to know.

What are Heirloom Seeds?

Heirloom seeds are generally described as ones that have been passed down from generation to generation. Many heirloom seeds have been handed down for hundreds of years because they are flavorful varieties that are easy to grow in a home garden. Heirloom seeds are “originals” in that they have not been created by “crossing” two different types of seeds together.

A qualifying factor is also that the seed be open-pollinated. Open pollinated seeds are those that are pollinated through natural methods such as insects, birds, or wind. Not all open-pollinated seeds are heirloom; however, all heirloom seeds require open pollination in order to produce crops. Hybrid crops on the other hand are produced by cross-pollinating two different types in an effort to create a specimen with the best characteristics of each.

Age a Factor

Some seed companies classify heirlooms according to age-for example, a variety that has been preserved for more than 50 years. Others go farther back, claiming that a seed cannot be classified as heirloom unless it was introduced before the 1920s, which was when hybrid plants were first introduced.

Although agriculturists disagree as to the exact age, most do acknowledge that a plant can be considered heirloom if its seeds may besaved and then used later to grow more of the same crop. That can’t be said of GMO seeds (which have had their DNA altered in an unnatural way), as it is impossible to tell whether their offspring will possess the same characteristics.


There are numerous advantages to growing heirloom seeds rather than hybrid or GMO types, such as:

  • More Nutritious

A number of recent studies indicate that genetically-modified seeds, which are designed to increase yields, may also produce foods with significantly less nutritional value than in years past. For example, there has been a significant decline in the mineral content of wheat varieties developed over the past century, and the amount of amino acids, protein, and oil have significantly declined in newer varieties of corn as well. The amount of calcium in broccoli is now only 1/3 of what it was back in 1950. Many doctors believe the declining amount of nutrients in our food has led to an increase in everything from obesity to cancer.

  • Taste Better

Hybrid fruits and vegetables are bred to be “tough” so as to better withstand rugged shipping conditions. For example, certain varieties of tomato are gas ripened, enabling them to be picked while green and then shipped to the supermarket before they rot. This results in a tomato that is less juicy and flavorful than before. Heirloom vegetables have none of these built-in preservation mechanisms, so you get the freshest, most delicious produce every time.

  • Invokes Memories of Childhood

Many people enjoy growing heirloom seeds because it helps them reminisce about their childhood. If you can remember pulling fresh corn-on-the-cob from the garden or picking and eating juicy watermelon for a late night snack, you can probably relate. It’s easy to imagine the delicious smells coming from your grandmother’s kitchen when you are planting your own heirloom seeds or tending to your garden once the plants start coming up.

  • Less Expensive

When purchasing seeds, open-pollinated heirloom varieties generally cost less than hybrids. When you consider that you only need to purchase seeds one time, the savings become even more profound.

  • Preserving History

A good number of heirloom seeds available in the United States originated in other countries. By growing these seeds, you are therefore preserving a little bit of history.

  • Increasing Self-Sufficiency

When you grow and save heirloom seeds, there is no need to worry about being able to purchase garden plants in the future. As such, you can continue growing your own food in order to remain self-sufficient.

Where to Find Heirloom Seeds

There are a number of online distributors that offer heirloom seeds for sale. One of the best ways to purchase them is through our survival store, which is accessible only to members. Some other places where you might find heirloom seeds include:

  • Local gardening clubs or seed exchanges
  • Farmers who specialize in growing heirloom crops
  • Botanical gardens

Preserving your Own Seeds

Once you are able to harvest a few crops, you can then begin saving your own heirloom seeds. The manner in which you do this will depend on whether it is a wet seed or a dry seed. For dry seeds, allow the pod or husk to fully dry on the vine if possible. If you are unable to wait that long, place your harvested pods or husks in a cool, dry location and wait until they crumble easily between your fingers. Wet seeds must be cleaned and then separated from their surrounding pulp, and should also be harvested from fully mature specimens whenever possible.

Seeds should be stored in a sealed container away from heat or light. You may even extend their lifespan somewhat by keeping them in the refrigerator; however, you should never place them in the freezer under any circumstances.

Heirloom seeds benefit survivalists by making it possible for them to maintain their own food supply, while also protecting themselves against a number of health issues.  Thanks for taking a look, be sure to check out our Survival Gardening book today.


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