Open Pollinated Seeds
What To Look For In Open Pollinated Seeds?
Many people, who fear that the times that lie before us are uncertain, want to make sure that their family will never know hunger if there are major disruptions. Others worry about the safety of genetically modified seed, and whether there will be health problems in the future associated with consuming food from such seed. Saving seed from year to year also appeals to some, and they simply enjoy growing a garden that will be self-perpetuating. Whatever, the reason behind using open pollinated seeds, or heirloom seeds there are some things to keep in mind to make sure that the heirloom, or open pollinated seed you buy is the best.
What Are Open Pollinated Seeds?
Anyone flipping through a seed catalog quickly becomes aware of a difference in the seeds offered. Many, if not most, of the seeds in many catalogs are designated as being hybrid seed. A hybrid is the result of cross pollination between two similar plants. This is usually done artificially as desirable traits from two tomatoes, say, will then be combined in one plant. The seed from this cross pollination is a hybrid.
Hybrid seed really began to dominate the seed market after World War II. Until then, most of the seed used was open pollinated. Hybrid seed often produces bigger crops than open pollinated, but the seed produced from hybrids is basically useless. Much of the seed from a hybrid will be sterile, and the resultant plants will not be the same as the parent. The plant will often have undesirable qualities that will ruin it as a food plant.
Besides hybrid seed, there is now genetically modified seed. This seed is the result of the splicing of DNA from one organism into the plant. Such traits as ability to use only one kind of fertilizer, or the ability to repel insects are often put into genetically modified seed. There has been little or no testing done about the possible long-term effects of the resultant plants on those who eat them.
Open pollinated seeds, on the other hand, is nature’s product. Open pollinated or heirloom seed will ‘breed true’ year after year, because there has been no alteration of the plant’s genetic material. You will be able to use open pollinated seed that you save year after year, with no compromise in quality.
Buying Your Open Pollinated Seeds
Even though it is probable that you will be saving the seed from your harvest, you must get the seed in the first place. There are several options available when you decide to use open pollinated seed. It is quite possible to use ordinary seed catalogs to choose your seeds. Most of these will label whether the seed offered is hybrid or heirloom (open pollinated). You can pick through the offerings and make up a list of open pollinated seeds without too much trouble.
However, the open pollinated seeds from major companies may not come from the source you want. Many seeds, even open pollinated ones, come from foreign countries where there may not be adequate oversight to produce healthy, pesticide free seeds.
If you want to get the best in open pollinated seeds, you will probably want to buy from companies that specialize in them. These seeds are often produced under organic farming practices, by small family farmers in the United States. These companies will generally offer single packets of seeds or ‘seed survival packages’ that will provide you with everything you need to plant up to an acre’s worth of vegetables. Make sure, too, that the seed offered is fresh and has been independently tested for germination.
The Packaging Is Important
While you may want to use your open pollinated seed right away to start a garden, many people will keep the seed for a ‘rainy day’. Uncertainty about the future has prompted many people to buy what will amount to a survival garden in the future. If you want your open pollinated seeds to remain viable for years, it is important that they are packaged correctly.
Moisture, mold, and insects are the great enemies of stored seed. Too much moisture can cause the seeds to begin to rot and promote the growth of mold. Once a seed is moldy, it is useless. Insects have evolved to use seeds as food for their offspring, so if a package is not sealed properly, it is quite possible for eggs to be laid on the seed, and for it to be destroyed by ravenous larvae.
Make sure that the open pollinated survival seeds that you purchase are properly packaged. The best packaging is probably mylar, and many of the companies selling open pollinated seeds will enclose their seeds in this. Not only will mylar keep the seeds safe from moisture and insects, it will also protect them from the deleterious effects of the light. Most seeds packaged in mylar can be kept for five years.