FAQ #10: How long do heirloom seeds keep? What is the best way to keep them?

Some types of seeds keep for a very long time, some seeds will lose viability in a year or two.  Nearly all seeds will keep for a year or two if stored properly.  Store them in an airtight container, and keep them as dry as possible.  Use of a desiccant is recommend for long-term storage.  If you intend to buy seeds and use them in the same year, no special storage is needed.

Another point is that the seeds don’t all die at once.  Even after several years, you will still probably see germination rates of 50% or more in some cases.  You can just plant more in that case, with the expectation that not every seed you plant will germinate.

FAQ #9: What’s the difference between heirloom seeds and organic seeds?

There is no commonly accepted definition of what is an heirloom seed.  Generally, they have to be an old well-established variety, but how old?

The definition we adhere to for an heirloom variety is that they have to be at least 50 years old, they must be open-pollinated, and they must never have been genetically modified.  Open-pollinated means that they breed true, or that seeds saved from a specific variety will grow into plants of the same variety.  Modern hybrid varieties typically produce seeds that do not breed true, you will not get the same exact same variety of plants if you save seeds from them.

We carry a handful of varieties that we call open-pollinated as opposed to heirlooms.  The only difference between these and heirlooms is that they are not yet 50 years old.  They are still open-pollinated and non-genetically modified.

Organic seeds are seeds from any variety that have been raised in an organic manner.  In order to be labeled organic, they have to have been raised on a farm that passes certain government standards for pesticide and fertilizer use, etc.  Organic seeds could be old-style heirloom varieties or modern hybrid varieties.  The only requirement is that they pass the government “test” for organic labeling.

It is our opinion that it is far more important for you to use organic practices in your garden where you grow your vegetables than it is for you to start with organic seeds.  Organic practices used in producing the seed have little to do with creating a plant that produces healthy fruit.  However, proper manuring of your garden, using pesticides that minimize impact to friendly inspects and are not poisonous to humans and animals, these are organic practices that have a major impact on the quality of the produce you grow.  Our recommendation is to find good quality heirloom varieties, and grow them in an organic manner to maximize the taste the healthiness of your produce.  Starting with organic seeds certainly can’t hurt, but I don’t think it makes a big impact.

FAQ #8: Do you have gift certificates?

Yes we do!  Go here to purchase one.

FAQ #7: Do you sell seeds in larger quantities?

Yes, we do sell seeds in bulk.  See here for pricing and availability.

FAQ #6: Do you grow your own seeds?

We grow some of our own seeds.  We buy many of our seeds from suppliers we trust to deliver quality, untreated seeds with high germination rates.  We find we can make a greater contribution by growing only those varieties that are rare and difficult to find elsewhere.  If a farmer has taken it upon themselves to grow large quantities of an heirloom crop, it does neither of us any good for us to go into competition with them to grow that crop.  It does more good if we help them distribute their crop, and if we choose something else to grow.  In addition, the open-pollinated nature of heirloom vegetables makes it very difficult to grow many different varieties of the same crop for seed all on the same farm.

FAQ #5: Are all of your seeds heirlooms?

Almost all of our seeds are heirlooms.  We do not sell any hybrid seeds, everything we carry is open-pollinated.  However, there are a couple of varieties that are not quite 50 years old, so by that definition we do not feel that we can call them heirlooms.  However, we carry them anyway because they soon will be heirlooms, and we believe they are good enough and important enough varieties to be included in our selection.  It is noted in the product description of these varieties that they are not heirlooms.

FAQ #4: What are Annie’s Favorites?

Typically, Annie’s Favorites are our picks for the best examples of each type of vegetable.  Usually the primary driver of the selection is taste, but growing habits, hardiness, and other qualities are factored in as well.  If we were stranded on an island, these are the varieties we’d want to have with us.

FAQ #3: What is an heirloom vegetable? Why should I grow them?

There is debate as to what defines an heirloom vegetable.  It is agreed that all heirlooms are vegetables that are open-pollinated, meaning they can reproduce true to the variety naturally.  Some say it must have been around for 50 years, others more or less.  Some varieties are beloved by home gardeners, others are still used commercially.

However you define them, heirlooms have been grown and cherished by gardeners for years.  They are not varieties that are here today and gone tomorrow.  They are varieties that have stood the test of time.  People have made a concerted effort to keep them around.  You know that for some reason that variety is still here.  People have different reasons for wanting a vegetable, fresh taste, good for preservings, excellent storage properties, color and appearance, keeping quality, and some are just interesting and fun.  Whatever the reason, each variety was saved and preserved by someone because it was very special to them.

We have also found that heirlooms just taste better.  An Amish gardener we know said that if you put an heirloom up against a hybrid, the brix index will be higher in the heirloom.  The brix index is the measure of sugar in the vegetable, and that directly correlates with taste.  And where the taste is, so is the nutrition.  We believe that our bodies can tell where the nutrients are, and flavor is how we detect the nutrients.  The best tasting vegetables will be the best for you.

Because heirlooms have stood the test of time, they have also survived pests and diseases.  The strains that were most succeptible would have died off completely.  What is left has been exposed to things and has survived.  The hybrids are engineered to be resistant to common diseases, but when an unusual strain comes, they won’t be able to survive.  But the heirlooms have probably seen those unusual diseases.  Maybe they aren’t totally resistant, but they have a better chance of resistance because they have been exposed at some point in their history.

Finally, growing heirlooms is participating in preserving a piece of history.  Many of the heirlooms have been carried with immigrants, beloved and cherished.  They were carried here because they were special, reminding them of the tastes of home.  Other varieties were developed here, for the special wants and needs of the American gardener.  Then they were preserved, passed down through the years, grown by commercial seed houses or home gardeners.

So just do it.  Grow heirloom vegetables.  Enjoy the wonderful tastes, beautiful colors and shapes, and participate in that special part of our American history that is the home garden.

FAQ #2: Who is Annie?

Annie was Julie’s grandmother.  She grew up during the depression, helping her father and brother milk cows for a living.  She later married Julie’s grandfather and they continued farming, settling on large almond orchards.  Her grandfather worked the fields while Annie raised the family and grew some of their food.  Julie’s mother remembers the jars of canned beans and tomatoes on the pantry shelves and the Kentucky Blue Lake pole beans growing in the garden.

Julie’s mother continued the tradition when Julie was young, growing pole beans, tomatoes and leaf lettuce.  She can’t remember learning how to trellis beans, just always knowing that’s how you grew beans.  She only stopped vegetable gardening when the new house didn’t have a sufficiently sunny location for the garden to thrive, but she still would grow tomatoes in containers where she could.

Julie has continued this legacy of vegetable gardening.  She now grows almost all our family’s vegetables.  We can and freeze everything that we can, and only buy those special treats that don’t grow well in the north.  Growing heirlooms has opened up a whole new world of wonderful vegetables to our family.  We love almost everything.

We hope to pass this love of gardening on to my daughter, Anne.  We named her after Julie’s grandmother, and she is already showing interest in the garden.  She has a special love of chard and lettuce and is the one to go out and harvest the dinner salad every evening.

Like all families, the legacy of gardening is passed down, just like the heirloom seeds that we plant.  Our hope at Annie’s is to provide your family with the seeds to grow gardens that nourish your bodies and enrich your lives.

FAQ #1: Who are you?

We are Scott, Julie, Carl, Anne, and Aurelia Slezak, a family living a homeschool and homestead lifestyle in mid-Michigan.  We care deeply about our food, and we work hard to nourish ourselves in the best way possible.  Heirloom vegetables are a vital part of this.  Julie and I grew up not liking vegetables, in part because of mediocre grocery-store offerings.  Now, it is hard to find a vegetable we won’t eat.  When you’re eating the best varieties on earth, picked thirty minutes before it is put on the table, how can anyone resist?

We have a small farm and a large garden.  We keep some Dexter cattle, some heritage breed hogs, free range chickens, some rabbits, along with a small orchard and some beehives.  Dogs and a cat too, of course.  Our lifestyle is somewhat unusual by modern standards, but we have very deliberately chosen it as the lifestyle we feel is best for us and our children.

Annie’s is the result of our passion for good food, and our desire to reach 0ut to other people with a similar passion.  Heirloom vegetables are different things to different people – to us, they are health, great taste, and self-sufficiency.  Whatever they are to you, we hope you find what you are looking for at Annie’s.

Anne, Julie, and Molly in the garden.

Wondering who Annie is?  Click here.