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It’s January already! Okay, I should have said “It’s only January!” This winter has seemed so long already! I’m ready to start planting seeds! I finished building my raised beds last spring, and have amended them over the winter. I’m excited to get back out there. So, to curb my craving, I’m sharing my favorite heirloom seed catalogues and my favorite heirloom vegetable seed varieties.
Heirloom Vegetable Seed
Now before we get to all the good seed links, what exactly is an heirloom seed? An heirloom seed is one that has been passed down (or in some cases just replants itself…I have some tomatoes that roll like that) from generation to generation. They are open pollinated – more about that in a second.
Now, heirloom seed is not the same as organic seed. Not all heirloom seeds are raised organic, and not all organic raised seed is heirloom. Organic refers to the practices used to raise the seed, not the seed genetics. Clear as mud? Good. Mud is good here.
My grandmother used to sell raw milk from her jerseys and fresh produce from their 5 acre “garden”. My Mom remembers fondly all the time she spent milking cows and pulling weeds. Grandma would collect seeds and store them for the next season. I remember planting seed my Grandma had saved that was probably at least 10-15 years old. Beans, beets and other heirloom vegetable seeds we weren’t sure would germinate, but they did!
What in the world is “open-pollinated?”
Okay, I’ll try to be clear and concise on this. Open pollinated plants breed true to their parents (or very close), and can be pollinated by wind, birds, bugs, or anything the transfers pollen from one plant to another. They can also “self-pollinate” which means just that, that one plant can pollinate itself instead of requiring pollen from another plant.
Hybrid vs. Heirloom
So, we’ve already identified an heirloom, but what is a hybrid? A hybrid is a variety that is specifically bred for certain characteristics and uniformity (like what you find in the supermarket). Hybrid varieties sometimes sacrifice flavor for good looks (unless they come from my garden, then they’re lacking both!) so heirlooms are very popular for the home garden. Unlike heirlooms, hybrids may not breed true to their parent plants. I’ve had some pretty interesting unintentional hybrids come up as volunteers…they can get weird!
I designed a free printable Seed Inventory Tracker just for you to print out and keep track of your new heirloom vegetable seeds! I’ve been using an inventory spreadsheet for over 10 years and it helps me to stay well stocked!
My Favorite Heirloom Seed Companies
I’ve listed several heirloom vegetable seeds sources below. There are many reputable heirloom/organic seed companies out there. Do your research though! Some seed companies are owned by Monsanto, and who wants ‘heirloom’ seed from them? I like to experiment with new and unusual varieties, but don’t worry, these sources have the ol’ reliables too!
(I am not an affiliate for any of these companies, I just want to share their heirloom seeds with you so you can start building your own seed bank! I’ve linked to their free catalog request pages if they offer one.)
Seed Savers Exchange – I started buying their seed when I was still in my teens (which was just a few years ago…wasn’t it?) I’ve saved my own seeds from those first ones and added new varieties over the years.
Baker Creek – Not only is their catalog oh-so-beautiful, but they have an abundance of varieties packed in there. I have to pace myself every time I shop their catalog! Their seeds have great germination rates and I will continue using their seed.
Uprising Seed – I first came across this seed at a market in Spokane, Washington. They are Washington based, and have great organic heirloom seed.
Sustainable Seed Company – Family owned and certified organic, this one has many varieties to choose from!
SeedCatalog.com – This is what most of my seed packets look like! Covered in garden dirt! Seedcatalog.com’s seed has always performed well for me in both rocky and sandy soil.
Now, onto some of my favorite heirloom vegetable seeds to order! Time to shop!!!! I’ve linked to Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek’s seeds depending on which variety they carry. Baker Creek is offering free shipping on all North American orders! I’m listing one good ol’ standard and a fun variety I’ve used under (almost) every category.
Kentucky Wonder (Bush) – These are great when you have limited trellis space. They are an old standard variety and prolific producers! Great for canning!
Painted Lady Improved Runner Beans – These big beautiful (and edible) seeds are so fun for little kids to plant (and for big kids too!) These beans are vining and climb over archways, trellises, or even buildings!
Early Wonder – A common variety that is (as its name states) an early producer. Dark red flesh and delicious. My Mom always had this variety and they canned up beautifully!
Chiogga– This is a fun variety that is so beautiful when sliced up! They taste delicious too! They do lose their beautiful rings of color when canned and just become off-white. I was sad about this!
Scarlet Nantes – These are a great carrot for canning or eating fresh right out of the garden. I usually just pull one up, rub the dirt off, and use it for a snack for my daughter while I’m working in the garden.
St. Valery – Another great option for canning and long term storage. I usually grow both Scarlet Nantes and St. Valery just to mix it up a bit.
First off, look at those sweet baby hands holding the corn. My daughter loves seeds as much as I do!
Golden Bantam – Another ol’ reliable. This corn has a sweet flavor and larger ears. Great for canning as well as fresh eating!
Stowells Evergreen – One of the oldest varieties still available, this has a white kernel and is very sweet.
I will be trying Mini Blue Popcorn this year! There are so many fun heirloom seed varieties!
Muncher – These tasty cucs are easy to grow, and are prolific producers so you’d better have all of your cucumber recipes ready!
Russian Pickling – I made a ton of pickles last year, I might have to hold off on growing these for a year or so to catch up on our pickle need!
Red Russian – One of the reasons I love growing Kale (besides eating it… obviously) is that it is so hardy. It can survive temps with just a shiver that most plants keel over dead from.
Yellow of Parma – These seeds are easy to start and transplant. I can never have too many onions!!
Zebrune Shallot Onion – I don’t use shallots very often, but when I do, I know I most likely won’t find one at our local grocery store #smalltownprobs. Better to have it growing right at home!
Sugar Snap Pea – Peas and I have an interesting relationship. As a child I caught the flu one summer and at the time was eating fresh peas out of our garden. I’ve never been able to eat raw peas since. I do still find them delicious in pot pie though! This variety is what I remember my Mom and Grandma growing. Even though I don’t particularly like them, I always grow them for nostalgia’s sake. Fortunately for me, my daughter loves them!
Blue Podded Pea – Take your peas to a completely different level! These not only are tasty (to some…) but they are BEAUTIFUL. I love the contrast these bring to my garden trellises.
Bloomsdale – This variety is more heat resistant than most, which is important for our climate. We have cool springs, but when it starts to warm up it gets hot quick!
Crookneck-Early Golden – Good ol’ crookneck squash. Loved my many, hated by many. I belong in the first category. These have crisp orange flesh and will grow anywhere. Anywhere.
Black Beauty Zucchini – Zucchini and I had a tough year last year. I’ll definitely be ordering fresh new seed. I replanted my seed THREE times and nothing came up. So either the seed I have been planting and saving over the years has somehow gone bad or I had some rodent who had a particular taste for zucchini seed. I’ve no idea. Thankfully, everyone else in the world had zucchini flourish last year so on one particular trip to town I was given zucchini by two different people without even asking!
Spaghetti Squash – This creature takes over my garden. I have to prune my spaghetti squash pretty harshly several times each year. Seriously, go talk to your cousin, Zucchini. It stores great in our basement, so we have spaghetti squash available for months!
Sugar Pie Pumpkin – Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes… these are usually the perfect size for making two pumpkin pies! I trellised my sugar pie’s on the garden fence last year and they were beautiful!
Patisson Panache Jaune et Verte Squash – This is a fun variety that I use for decoration. You never know exactly what they’ll look like. Beautiful colors and variety of shapes!
Amish Paste – I love to can salsa, chili, marinara, and any other tomato recipe I can preserve! These make a great tomato for canning and everyday eating.
Blue Berries Tomato – These are a fun variety that range from dark red to deep purple. They grow in clusters and are just the right size for salads!
Moon & Stars (Van Doren) – I have grown these and collected seeds for over 10 years now. These are tasty and have a really fun splattered pattern, thus the name ‘Moon & Stars.’
There you have it! Some of my favorite heirloom vegetable seeds! I have collected so many over the years, it’s so fun to try new varieties and to see what performs best in your climate/soil.
Don’t forget your free Seed Inventory Tracker!
What are some of your favorite heirloom seeds and suppliers?
Until next time… happy trails!