Honoring The Elders: The Wisdom of Heirloom Seeds


By Linda Wiggen Kraft

There are many miracles, but one necessary for life on earth is the miracle of plant seeds. Within the tiny container of a seed is the blueprint for an entire plant that may grow the tallest tree, the tastiest food or the medicine that will cure cancer. If we lose the diversity of the plants that now exist we may lose those plants that have naturally evolved to withstand drought, feed many, offer better taste and eliminate diseases. Unfortunately it is estimated that 1 in 5 of all plant species are now threatened by extinction. Continuing the miracle of seeds and the cycle of sustaining life depends on the diversity of the blueprints, or the genetic legacy of plants.

We as gardeners can help by planting seeds that contain the elder wisdom of heirloom plants. These are open-pollinated plants that carry the largest genetic diversity, whose seeds have been saved and passed down generation after generation. Each heirloom plant is different and offers its unique gifts. Fortunately the growing passion for heirloom plants has brought us the likes of unique and different tomatoes that taste so much better than the mealy ones often sold in stores. If it weren’t for seed savers working diligently in the last few decades many of these plants would be lost forever.

Planting heirloom seeds lets us be part of the rhythm of seed, to plant, to seed that has been the partnership cycle between plants and people for tens of thousands of years. These seeds let us be part of the past while at the same time ensuring the future.

There are seed sellers and growers who are dedicated to keeping the wisdom of heirloom seeds alive. They sell heirloom, non-GMO and often organic vegetable and flower seeds. Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa is a nonprofit that started in 1975 and has grown to preserve 25,000 rare fruit, vegetable, and plant varieties. They have a catalog with seeds for sale and have a seed exchange membership where people can exchange seeds.

Missouri’s own Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has a beautiful catalog and 20 years of experience selling heirlooms. Each spring they offer an Annual Festival in Mansfield, MO and in fall the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA. Local SeedGeeks has an online seed catalog and grows their seeds at their 50 acre Warren County farm. A google search for heirloom seeds will show sellers in other parts of the country. Let your garden be a place to plant and nurture the seeds filled with the plant elders’ wisdom and diverse genes.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader. Visit her blog: CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog or on her website: CreativityForTheSoul.com. Call her at (314) 504-4266.