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Preserving History through Heirloom Gardening
3/1/2020 12:00:00 AM
Heirloom Gardening

Maybe you’ve heard of heirloom plants and produce, but what exactly defines an heirloom fruit, vegetable, or flower? 

An heirloom variety is simply one that has not been developed as a hybrid. They often taste and smell better, as those properties have not been hybridized out of them. Heirloom seeds and plants have been passed down, often through several generations of families. They generally cost less, but there’s more than price to consider. Most are open-pollinated, which means their pollination has occurred naturally in fields by wind or by pollinators like honeybees. Some self-pollinate, so they’re kept isolated to produce unchanging seeds. Many heirloom varieties are fifty years old or older. They’re valued like family elders, each with its own intriguing ancestral story to tell. And, no one owns the patent on heirloom varieties.

Heirloom gardening allows you to grow and eat produce that has not been genetically modified, sprayed with insecticides or forced into ripeness. You pick what you need, share, and preserve your bounty through canning or freezing.

When agriculture became more industrialized post-World War II, we lost plant diversity. Heirloom gardeners are committed to reversing that. As global population increases, heirlooms are respected for their genetic diversity, as well as their preservation of the world’s food supplies. Some varieties thrive in specific regions; others have unique adaptation qualities, empowering new regions to grow quality plants, collect seeds, and maintain precious food and flower resources. Heirloom gardeners are part of the global biodiversity movement.

Want to start your own heirloom garden? Start small with a manageable plot and plant variety. Seeds can be found in certain catalogs, such as Burpee’s, and plants can often be found at area farmers markets. Grow what you like, but don’t be afraid to try new things. Maybe okra and cauliflower were not your childhood favorites, but as you’ve matured, so have your taste buds.  Become an adventurous eater!

Dirt is Good for You

Don’t enjoy getting your hands dirty? Think again. Digging in dirt has many health and therapeutic benefits, some of which are just now being re-discovered. Even though we live in the most hygienically aware time in human history, you cannot avoid germs: nor should you always want to! Germs are necessary to boost immunity. Current research proves that microbes—bacteria, fungi and viruses—are essential catalysts for the tissues in our immune systems. According to the germ experts, without activation by microbe exposure, we cannot "grow” friendly bacteria. Most microbes, as high as 99%, according to immunologists, are benign and beneficial. 

Posted by: Madelaine Brauner Landry | Submit comment | Tell a friend


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