By Ryan Dorn,

Have you ever wondered what makes a seed an heirloom? Is there any difference between heirloom seeds and regular seeds? Why does it even matter? Well, today we're diving into the wonderful world of heirloom seeds, featuring some of our favorites at Southern Seeds.

Southern Seeds Heirloom Vegetables


An heirloom seed, at its most basic, is a seed variety that has been preserved and passed down through generations of families and communities - often for over 50 years. They are known for maintaining their unique characteristics over time, thanks to careful selection and saving of the seeds by those who cultivated them.

Now, this might have you wondering, how is an heirloom seed different from a regular seed? Well, the "regular seeds" you see in stores are often hybrid seeds, which are created by crossbreeding two different plant varieties to get certain desired traits. Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, are open-pollinated, meaning they reproduce naturally and preserve their traits season after season.

One of our heirloom favorites is the Mary Washington Asparagus. It's been a garden classic for over a century and truly epitomizes what it means to be an heirloom - dependable, flavorful, and capable of reproducing true-to-type year after year.

Southern Seed Exchange - Mary Washington Asparagus


Knowing if your seeds are heirlooms can be a bit tricky. Usually, seed packaging should tell you, but when in doubt, refer to a trusted seed supplier - like Southern Seeds, of course. We make it easy for you by offering a variety of heirlooms, like the Contender Beans, a prolific, heat-tolerant variety that has delighted gardeners for generations.

Despite the name, heirloom seeds aren't just "old seeds". They are time-tested treasures that have stood the test of generations. The Tendersweet Carrot is a perfect example, offering a delicious flavor that modern hybrids find hard to match.

But what makes heirloom seeds so special? It's their rich history and unmatched taste. Each heirloom seed variety carries a story with it - of the people who cultivated it and the places it has traveled. The Pioneer Cucumber is a testament to this, hailing from the pioneer days with its resilience and prolific nature.

Heirloom seeds aren't necessarily better or worse than other seed types - it's more about what you value as a gardener. If you want a truly 'from scratch' garden experience, preserving biodiversity, and the possibility to save your seeds, then heirlooms are your best bet. Kale Lacinato, also known as Dinosaur Kale, is a true testament to the unparalleled qualities of heirlooms - nutritiously rich and packed with a flavor that transcends generations.

Southern Seed Exchange - Kale Lacinato


Finally, let's address the elephant in the garden - the difference between heirloom and non-GMO. Non-GMO simply means a seed or plant has not been genetically modified in a laboratory. All heirloom seeds, like our Buttercrunch Lettuce, are non-GMO, but not all non-GMO seeds are heirlooms. Heirlooms are a subset of non-GMO, providing the additional benefits of open-pollination and rich history.

In the end, whether it's the sweet bite of a Red Burgundy Onion, the verdant promise of the Bloomsdale Spinach, the robust presence of the Waltham Squash, or the classic, juicy splendor of the Beefsteak Tomato, the charm of heirlooms lies in their unwavering ability to connect us with our past, while helping us cultivate a future that's as rich and diverse as the garden they're grown in.

At Southern Seeds, we are proud to carry a wide range of these gardening gems. Our heirloom seeds not only lend you the tools to grow amazing produce but also invite you to become part of a legacy of seed-saving and storytelling that transcends the boundaries of time.

When you plant the Tendersweet Carrot or the Buttercrunch Lettuce, you're not just planting a vegetable for your next salad. You're planting a piece of history, a dash of culture, and a seed with a story. And when they grow, their roots dig deep into the past, and their shoots reach out towards the future.

Southern Seed Exchange - Kale Lacinato


In essence, heirloom seeds provide you with a gardening experience that is both unique and gratifying. They give you an unmatched connection with the earth, the past generations of gardeners, and the future ones to come.

When you taste the juicy crunch of the Beefsteak Tomato or the refreshing crunch of the Pioneer Cucumber, remember you're tasting a flavor passed down through generations — a flavor that has survived the test of time because people like you chose to keep the legacy alive.

Whether you're an experienced gardener or a novice, heirloom seeds offer a wonderful opportunity to grow something different. So why not try growing some Waltham Butternut Squash or Bloomsdale Spinach this year? Your garden, and your taste buds, will thank you.

At Southern Seeds, we invite you to experience the joy of growing with heirloom seeds, and help preserve the seed diversity for future generations. Because every seed tells a story — and we'd love for you to be a part of it.

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