Heirloom Seeds

Are Open Pollinated Seeds Heirloom?

Open-pollinated seeds are diverse, genetically stable, and their replication over time creates a family or heirloom plant. The term “open pollinated” refers to the type of seed in which the resulting plants are true to the original parent plant. This means that when two compatible plants of the same variety cross-pollinate one another, the offspring will show similar characteristics – offering gardeners an opportunity to save seeds from an open pollinated variety and grow it for generations to come!

Open-pollinated seeds have been used for centuries and have held a place in many traditional farming societies. Open-pollinated seeds allow farmers and gardeners to create new varieties from already existing plants; by breeding with open pollinators, we can ensure that old varieties are preserved and new ones developed. Open-pollination also offers gardeners greater diversity within a species, resulting in better flavor and higher yields. Unlike hybrid varieties which require special care and are often produced only commercially, open-pollinated varieties can be grown reliably using traditional methods without any special equipment or knowledge.

For these reasons, open pollenated varieties have gained popularity among smallholder farmers and home gardeners alike because of their

  • reliability,
  • cost effectiveness,
  • diversity in flavors,
  • higher yield potentials

among other benefits provided by their use. With the threat of global climate change on the rise, it is more important than ever before that we actively support biodiversity through seed saving techniques and organic agriculture.

Definition of Open Pollinated Seeds

Open pollinated seeds are varieties of seeds that are pollinated by natural sources such as insects, birds, and wind, rather than through human intervention. These seeds have been grown naturally, without the use of genetic modification or other means of artificial selection. They are often referred to as “heirloom” varieties due to their being passed down from generation to generation.

Now let's look at why open pollinated seeds are preferable to other seed varieties:

How Open Pollinated Seeds are Different from Hybrid Seeds

Open pollinated seeds are seed varieties that will produce plants with the same genetic characteristics of their parents. Open pollinated plants can be produced by either natural or particular methods of cross-pollination. The open pollinated seeds have characteristics and traits that breeders wish to maintain, such as pest or disease resistance, size and shape of the fruit, ease or difficulty of harvesting, nutritional content and flavor.

Unlike hybrid seeds, open pollinated seeds can be saved by the gardener from year to year, allowing for continuity of the same plant characteristics over time. If a gardener wants to harvest a crop from an open pollinated variety again next season without buying new seed each year, these “saved” varieties are also known as heirloom plants. The resulting seedling from saved heirloom varieties can sometimes turn out to be less uniform than when you originally purchased it because hybrids are more likely to produce offspring with similar characteristics.

This unpredictability is one way hybrid varieties are different from open pollinateds; hybridists spend extensive amounts of time perfecting their desired qualities through selective crossings and controlled environment processes in order to ensure each seed will produce an exact replica of itself in every way.

Definition of Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom seeds are open pollinated, meaning that their genetic makeup is not modified and they can be allowed to flower and reproduce naturally. This is distinct from hybrid seeds which are made from two parent plants that have been bred to produce offspring with desired traits.

Heirloom seeds still possess the qualities of the original open-pollinated parent plants, and have been passed down through generations. Let's look further into the history and properties of heirloom seeds.

History of Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated varieties that have been passed down through the generations, often from region to region and family to family. Since heirloom plants are open pollinated, they can reproduce their traits over and over again—which helps to conserve the genetic diversity of our food sources.

The use of heirloom seeds goes back to before recorded history when people would save and share their best seeds with others in order to produce better crops year after year. For hundreds of years, farmers selected for preferred characteristics such as pest tolerance, harvest time, taste or texture in their crops and carefully maintained these “heirloom” seeds from generation to generation. But with the rise of industrial agriculture in the late 19th century, many heirloom varieties began to disappear from the standard American diet – replaced by mass-produced hybrids grown for transportability and long shelf life rather than flavor and nutrition.

Not all heirlooms are created equal — some varieties do not possess true heirloom genetics or traits due to a false history that has been passed down. To be sure that your plant is an authentic heirloom variety, buy your seeds from a trusted seed source and try growing out a few of each variety before committing fully. For example, many tomato seed growers produce “Heirloom Tomato Mixes” where several different types of tomatoes may be paired together in one package; however it’s important to know if each variety is true-to-type so you can keep proper records on how they grow out year after year.

Are Open Pollinated Seeds Heirloom?

Open pollination is an important factor when it comes to growing plants and seeds. Open pollinated seeds are seeds which are produced naturally through the pollination of plants, usually through wind or insects. Heirloom seeds are seeds which have been handed down through generations and are known to have origins that go back to the early 1900's.

In this article, we will explore the differences between open pollinated and heirloom seeds.

Benefits of Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds

Open pollinated heirloom seeds are seeds that have been grown for generations and maintained for their genetics. These are often found in family genealogies and passed down through the generations. With heirloom seeds, farmers can produce crops with the same flavor, color, texture, and shape they were known and loved for. Open pollinated heirloom seeds offer benefits to both the food system and home gardeners alike:

  • For the food system: Open pollinated heirloom seeds maintain genetic diversity within crop species by preserving all original characteristics associated with the plant instead of a designer combination of select traits. This keeps important traditional varieties alive, allows resources to be focused on growing other varieties instead of competing solely with genetically engineered crops, helps combat monoculture farming practices that damage soil over time with depletion of micronutrients and beneficial bacteria, saves money on pesticides and fertilizer input costs which often plague commercial operations relying on mass production of a single variety of crop.
  • For home gardeners: By purchasing open pollinated heirloom seeds from reliable sources, you can ensure sustainable growing practices in your own backyard by joining conservation efforts to save seed from becoming extinct due to lack of use. Plus, you can now take advantage of flavors you’ve never heard about or ever considered as part of your diet before! Not to mention delicious flavor unmatched by others found in mainstream grocery stores since open pollination Heirlooms retain genes linked to taste profiles! This makes them ideal for producing bolder dishes that feed both body and soul.


After reviewing the different characteristics of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, one can conclude that although open-pollinated varieties may not have been in existence for several generations, they still stand up to the criteria for being considered “heirlooms“. Open-pollinated plants are genetically diverse and will remain true-to-type from generation to generation, only exhibiting natural variations through natural means and processes like pollination from insects, wind or birds. Also, as with heirloom varieties, open pollinated varieties can be saved from year to year as long as contamination from hybrids is avoided. Therefore, open-pollinated seeds can be considered heirlooms in most cases.

Heirloom Seeds