Seedy Sunday is this coming weekend (7th Feb). As usual we’ll have a stall there to share seeds grown on the Project. All these seeds are open-pollinated, meaning they’ll resemble the parent plants (unlike F1 seeds – see below).
As well as growing food all year round we trial open-pollinated varieties for flavour, yield, disease-resistance and suitability to our soil and climate. If a variety does well it’s a candidate for growing on for seed.
‘Hannibal’ a.k.a ‘Autumn Mammoth’ leek seed ripening
Open a seed catalogue and you’ll likely be confronted with a mind-boggling choice of varieties, which could’ve been grown anywhere in the EU, and include many F1s. So where do you start?
Open-pollinated or F1?
Open-pollinated describes the method of pollination practised by Nature for millions of years, and by farmers around the world for millenia. Anyone can save his or her own seeds from open-pollinated varieties with a little bit of know-how. But try growing seeds saved from an F1 variety and you’ll discover that the offspring differ widely from the parent plant, because F1s are hybrids (produced by crossing 2 different varieties.) This also makes F1 seeds more expensive as they require a technical approach way beyond the means of individual growers.
Widely used in agriculture to produce plants uniform in appearance and growth-rate designed for mechanical harvesting, F1s are less well-suited to allotment-growing where good flavour and an extended cropping period are often most desirable.
Sadly, F1s are usurping many traditional open-pollinated varieties so we’re losing part of our cultural heritage and resilience to environmental change. No doubt commercial seed companies like F1s because they increase dependency on bought seeds each year by preventing growers from saving our own seeds.
So while we still have the choice we can all help to keep traditional varieties alive by checking seed packets prior to purchase (F1 varieties are labelled), and growing, saving and sharinig open-pollinated seeds. Indeed, the ethos of Seedy Sunday when it was founded in 2002 was to do just this.
For more info on the importance of saving open-pollinated varieties visit http://seedcooperative.org.uk/index.html
Here are some of the Food Project’s favourite Seed Suppliers: