Open-pollinated seeds are a gardener’s delight and the key to long term sustainability. Lynda Brown explains why.
It may be dark, wet and cold, but seed catalogues are a wonderful winter diversion. For gardeners they’re the best treat imaginable, a feast of potential to kindle your imagination for the great growing season to come.
A feature of the biodynamic approach is to champion and favour open-pollinated seeds over modern F1 hybrids. These are varieties that are pollinated naturally by birds, insects, wind, or other natural means, including gardeners’ hands, compared to modern F1 hybrids which are bred by commercial growers, are genetically unstable, and cannot be saved from one generation to the next.
Not only does growing open-pollinated seeds preserve and keep our precious genetic pool alive and growing, in our climate challenged times, it has never been more important. We need varieties that can adapt to local conditions, which as gardeners (and farmers) we can save, and where Mother Nature’s own capacity to create something new in adversity can happen spontaneously. Organic gardening writer, Alys Fowler, another long-standing champion of open-pollinated seeds explains why.
It also means the opportunity to grow and taste for yourself varieties that have character, provenance, flavour, robustness, individuality – everything a gardener appreciates. Who would not want to grow Cottager’s Kale, a cross between a kale and a Brussels sprout, apparently mentioned by Charles Darwin in the 1860 Gardeners Chronicle; or try some of the new British Ethnic varieties , collected from allotments and grown by Sea Spring Seeds in Dorchester, who pioneered growing chillis in the UK; Manchester’s Carrot from Real Seeds; or Brandywine tomato ( legendary flavour) or one of the all-time gardeners’ favourite tomato, Gardener’s Delight from the Seed Co-operative; or could resist Scarlet Emperor runner beans from Tamar Organics
Unlike F1 hybrids, open pollinated seeds offer a cornucopia of interest and excitement. Buying seeds from the new breed of amazing small independent seed companies above who champion them and who grow for gardeners completes the circle, will bring many happy hours searching through their catalogues and will ensure we all keep open pollinated varieties thriving for future generations.
Let us know your favourite open-pollinated varieties, so we can share them with other members, too!