Heritage fruit and vegetables are garden treasures that have been propagated and passed down from one gardener to another. They are varieties that have been grown on a small scale for decades or even centuries.

The Seed Savers Network is a community-based organisation that encourages members to preserve unusual varieties by swapping seed. Many of the varieties are impossible to obtain through normal commercial seed outlets. The aim of seed saving groups is to preserve genetic diversity in food crops for the benefit of future generations. It is most important to have a wide a gene pool for food crops, as it helps resistance to plant disease.

In addition to being part of this incredibly worthwhile goal you will be able to grow some amazing fruits and vegetables in your own garden. Visit the organisation’€™s website at www.seedsavers.net for a wealth of information on growing and saving seed on all kinds of rare and wonderful plant species, and for inspiring stories from around the world.

You can get started with seed saving in your own garden easily.

  • Save seeds from your best plants.
  • Resist the temptation to save seed from food plants that bolt to seed early, as this trait will be passed on to the next generation.
  • Once you have decided which plants you want to set seed, feed and water them well so they have enough energy for their seed production.
  • Keep an eye on them once the seed heads start developing, as you need your seed to ripen properly before you harvest it. Picking too early will result in immature seeds that won’t germinate. Signs that seeds are maturing can be a change in colour, becoming fat and harder, and starting to shed from the seed head.
  • Enclosing a seed head in a paper bag can help to save them if you can’t keep a daily watch on the seed
  • It is important to dry the seed properly before storage. If not properly dry, they can develop mould. Spreading seeds out on a tray or screen in a breezy place is a good way to dry them.
    For plants such as beans and peas that develop in a pod, wait till the pod is beginning to yellow or brown before harvest.
  • For plants like tomatoes, cut them open and scoop out the seeds. Wash in a fine sieve to remove any pulp and dry.
  • Store in paper envelopes, and be sure to write the name and date, and any other information you want to keep on the plant.