Place thoroughly dry seed in a tightly closed glass jar and keep the jar in a cool dry location. Put silica gel packets in with the seed to help keep it dry.
If you plan to save your seeds, these vegetables need to be isolated or planted a substantial distance (200 yards or more) from other varieties of the same vegetable plant to avoid unwanted crossing. As stated above, the easiest way to maintain pure heirloom seeds is to plant only one variety at a time.
- Long-lived seeds include beets; all cabbage relatives such as broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and kale; cucumber; lettuce; melons; peppers; sunflower; tomato; and turnip. If you keep them cool and dry, these seeds should maintain good viability for five years or more.
- Medium-lived seeds include beans, carrot, chard, eggplant, parsley, peas, pumpkin and squash. These, properly stored, should last at least three years.
- Short-lived seeds can only be depended on to last to the next growing season. This list includes corn, leek, onion and spinach seed.
The following list offers key heirloom seeds to try, as recommended by Rosalind Creasy in Cooking From the Garden:
Kentucky Wonder beans. These fresh beans have been around since the 1800s and are one of the most delicious and prolific garden varieties to grow.
Winter Keeper beets. These will keep well in storage for months and are particularly well-suited to be pickled or slow-roasted. Aunt Mary’s, Shoe Peg, or Country Gentleman corn varieties. These old-fashioned heirlooms are sweet, nutty, and especially corny tasting.
Orach greens. An heirloom alternative to spinach, these summer leafy greens are stunning. Purple and green leaves bleed pink when cooked, and they taste fantastic used in recipes calling for spinach.
All-blue potatoes. The name says it all for these beautiful blue-fleshed heirloom potatoes.
Oxheart tomatoes. This variety of tomato grows very large and very delicious.
To learn more about growing, saving, and supporting heirloom vegetables, pay a visit to the folks at Seed Savers, an organization dedicated to the preservation of our heritage seeds.