Saving Heirlooms

"Seed to Seed" is the wisest guide to seed saving and grassroots genetic preservation you will ever find. Suzanne Ashworth has distilled the best information from researchers and the Seed Savers Exchange to guide vegetable gardeners from all walks of life.

What are Heirlooms? Seed Savers Exchange defines an heirloom as any garden plant that has a history of being passed down within a family, just like pieces of heirloom jewelry or furniture. Some companies have tried to create definitions based on date, such as anything older than 50 years.


The genetic diversity of the world's food crops is eroding at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. The vegetables and fruits currently being lost are the result of thousands of years of adaptation and selection in diverse ecological niches around the world. Each variety is genetically unique and has developed resistance to the diseases and pests with which it evolved. Plant breeders use the old varieties to breed resistance into modern crops that are constantly being attacked by rapidly evolving diseases and pests. Without these infusions of genetic diversity, food production is at risk from epidemics and infestations.

Just how dangerous is genetic erosion? The late Jack Harlan, world renowned plant collector who wrote the classic "Crops and Man" while Professor of Plant Genetics at University of Illinois at Urbana, has written: "These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine. In a very real sense, the future of the human race rides on these materials. The line between abundance and disaster is becoming thinner and thinner, and the public is unaware and unconcerned. Must we wait for disaster to be real before we are heard? Will people listen only after it is too late."

How to Save Seed

Both beginning and experienced gardeners can easily learn how to save their own seeds, resulting in substantial annual savings and ever increasing self-sufficiency. For saving individual varieties of seed, please see our vegetable planting and seed saving instructions >>

"Seed to Seed" is widely acknowledged as the best guide available for home gardeners to learn effective ways to produce and store seeds on a small scale. Author Suzanne Ashworth has grown seed crops of every vegetable featured in the book, and has thoroughly researched and tested all of the techniques she recommends for the home garden. "Seed to Seed" is a comprehensive and invaluable reference book for all gardeners who are interested in maintaining unique varieties and helping to conserve our vegetable heritage.


In 2002 Seed Savers Exchange published the Second Edition of "Seed to Seed," a complete seed-saving guide that describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables. The book contains detailed information about each vegetable, including its botanical classification, flower structure and means of pollination, required population size, isolation distance, techniques for caging or hand-pollination, and also the proper methods for harvesting, drying, cleaning and storing the seeds.


This updated and greatly expanded Second Edition includes additional information about how to start each vegetable from seed, which has turned the book into a complete growing guide. Local knowledge about seed starting techniques for each vegetable has been shared by expert gardeners from seven regions of the U.S. - Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast/Gulf Coast, Midwest, Southwest, Central West Coast, and Northwest.