(This is a guest blog by Maya, from her green healing blog, http://healinggreen.blogspot.com)
Having turned the corner through the dead of winter, our New England days are getting longer and everyone is dreaming about Spring and days that don't begin with a stoking of the fireplace. Seed and plant catalogues are a great way to feed the mind and soul during winter, with beautiful images of flowers and vegetables, herbs and exotic grasses. I recently found a great article from Mother Earth News that had links to seed companies all over America. This is a fantastic resource, because when you buy seeds locally you are accomplishing two things: you are supporting local business communities and your plants are more likely to thrive in your soil, having been bred for generations in that spot of earth.
When you are reading about seeds, you will come across the terms Hybrid (F1), Open-Pollinated (OP) and Heirloom. Hybrid seeds produce specially bred varieties that are often disease and drought-resistant, or have special production properties. They are also usually designed to create more seed buying and protect the seed company's economic interest in their stock, which means that they will not breed true: if you want the same plant next year, you'll have to buy the seeds again. If you try and use seeds you collected from the plant, they will grow into a different plant, generally with different fruit production, or not even germinate at all.
Open-pollinated seeds breed true, and are often organic or grown without pesticides. You can save seeds from an open-pollinated plant and expect the exact same plants the next year. Environmentally, they present a better heritage for our children because these seeds are dependable and safe. Heirloom seeds are generally considered open-pollinated seeds which have been growing true for over 50 years or plant generations -- these are the seeds of our grandmothers, and theirs. Some heirloom varieties are endangered, and I love knowing that I am preserving a little bit of istory by planting these varieties in my garden.Here in Connecticut, I chose to order from two companies. The first is Comstock, Ferre, which had many OP seeds to choose from, does a lot of their own growing, and is the oldest seed company in the United States. How cool is that?? The other is a small company just a few towns aways from me, in a really tiny town, actually, called John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds.
Another great resource for those of you who are serious about saving and using your seeds for next year is the fabulous book, Seed to Seed.