Episode-23- The Role of Heirloom Vegetables in Survival Planning — 8 Comments

  1. Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, so this comment might miss the mark. However, from the summary write-up, I want to clarify. What I believe you are actually talking about are called open-pollinated (OP) varieties. Heirloom varieties are a subset of OPs that have been around for many decades. However, all OP varieties are important for self-sufficient gardening.

    Two great resources are the book “Seed to Seed” which is nearly encyclopedic in its information about saving seeds … and the Seed Savers Exchange ( which is the single largest seed-saving cooperative effort around.

  2. You know rainbird that is a really great point. I should be more specific about that in the future. The issue is I think that it is often hard to identify whether a specific plan it OP or not. Some hybrids in fact can be reliably reproduced.

    To many heirloom and open pollinated are used interchangeably and while not precisely accurate when one buys a heirloom seed, one knows it can be reliability reproduced.

    I also planned to link to Seed Savers dot org in the post along with several others. I was in a rush to get the show up though and will add them now.

    I will try to be more specific about open pollinated vs. heirloom in the future though in many instances you get into literally splitting hairs with the two.

  3. As a response to your request for feedback on what the next shows should be about, it would be nice if you focused a bit more on personal preparedness and a little less on current events and the disheartening economic situation. Right now it seems like you do about half and half, and I think a better mix would be 2/3 personal preparedness and 1/3 current events. That’s not to say that I don’t like the current events and economics episodes, but sometimes after them I feel like “Wow, that’s really concerning, but what can I do about it?”

    As for further shows, I think good topics would be nutrition and how to store/garden all the nutrients you need, bird hunting tips (I only say this because you mentioned your 20 gauge dove gun), and some book recommendations. That’s just off the top of my head, though. Take it for what it’s worth.

    Good luck getting to 1K listeners! I’m trying to politely promote wherever I can.


  4. David,

    I’m listening to the podcast right now; so far, very good.

    One point on hybrids … seed companies will often falsely label open-pollinated varieties as hybrids, specifically so that consumers will come back to buy the seeds again next year. I have experimented with saving and growing out several “hybrid” varieties that typed true. If you go through two child generations, and still have plants with the same characteristics, then the original seeds were probably not hybrids.

    I currently have about 150 different seed varieties vacuum-sealed in my freezer. In the next couple years, I will add another 50 or so, and I am in the process of setting up a farming/gardening routine that grows out 1/4 to 1/3 of those varieties annually.

    Future topic: talk about gardening grains and other core foodstuffs that most people don’t think of as “vegetable” gardening. A great book on this (and perhaps the only book on this) is “Small-Scale Grain Raising” by Gene Logsdon.

    Thought on composting … I don’t know the exact Rubbermaid item you’re talking about; however, any compost pile that is not in contact with the ground is at a disadvantage. Worms and microorganisms in the soil will go up into a compost pile and break down stuff a lot better. If these things cannot get into the compost, you usually need finished compost or commercial “starters” to get your pile to break down properly.

    Future topics in general: I want to hear about current events only in relation to how the information helps me prepare, and gives me a better idea of what (if anything) is coming down the pipe. For instance, I do not want to hear about Monsanto’s efforts to crush independent farmers in general; I’ll get that from my other news sources. I *do* want to hear about how Monsanto’s new genetically modified crops–if planted near mine–could contaminate my seeds’ genetics, and why that would be a Bad Thing.

    PS: The process you describe of selectively breeding vegetables to grow better in your local microclimate … this is becoming a popular idea among organic and hobbyist beekeepers … raising and breeding queens locally, to develop strains of bees that survive better in your location.

    PPS: I breed snakes, too … Corns. I think you and I would get along. Good luck with your site; I’ll be listening.

  5. Interesting show on an issue that I wanted to learn more about. I like the variety of topics that you are able to address. I would echo the request for about a 1/3 (or less) current events focus, with an emphasis on the preparedness/practical skills and knowledge. I appreciate your limited government, libertarian perspective on current events, though. I think that talking about Monsanto provides the context that people need to hear in understanding about GM and hybrid seeds. Canning/preserving would be another great topic. Tips on developing local relationships and community ties might be another good topic. Also, what are your ideas on the sort of threats we need to prepare against in a situation where law and order breaks down? A show on best books would be good, as well as a show on reducing our dependence on unsustainable forms of technology.

    I think you’ve been doing a great job. My only recommendation from an aesthetic side would be to find a better system for noise cancellation (like whatever it is that those traffic helo guys use). Higher quality headset/boom mic (noise-canceling) rather than a lapel mic would probably help a lot.

  6. Great points from all. To some individual concepts here are my responses.

    1. @rainbird – I have suspected that many “hybrids” would still reproduce. Most heirlooms were the result of a hybridization at some point. I would really like to build a list of commonly available varieties the do reproduce for folks. Any assistance from you with that is more then welcome.

    2. To the several that want less current events and more preparation, I will do what I can. Realize that I am doing about 20 shows a month and much of the “how” is way better suited to video then audio. Such as how to make, install, etc anything. Yet I do want to do some more practical shows. John you have given me some really great ideas in that regard and so has everyone else, I’ll see what I can do.

    3. On the mic, yea I know but I am just trying to keep the costs of this down. That said I have one of these on order,

    Once it gets here I bet the quality will get a lot better. Either that or they are getting it back.

    Thanks again and tune in Monday.


  7. Jack,

    I really enjoyed this podcast on heirloom vegetables and what the difference (along with Rainbird’s clarification) between hybridization and heirloom is and the way that firms like Monsanto muddy the water on what hybrid means. I enjoy your comment on current events and such; though I would agree with others that abit more information about personal/family preparedness is a point I would also like to see.

    Though I am very new to the gardening part of things (my wife and I have numerous books; but are getting our hands dirty and having the normal problems of getting things to grow well), I have found a couple of books to be both inspiring (and equally depressing, not in a bad way; simply that I have to get my mind out of the quick-reward system we are so used to these days): – the website for the book of the same name; it’s about re-acquainting oneself with local food, producers and reducing reliance on long-haul/ocean-going food transportation.
    Gardening when it counts by Steve Solomon (URL: is a book about just that, gardening when it counts (in tough times, how to grow for best results (not necessarily greatest quantity) when looking at various issues.
    I have written up a brief article on various books and gardening on my own site ( if anyone’s interested.

    Monsanto and a number of the major pharmaceutical giants are trying to patent food stuff as well as genes from various organisms; this should scare the crap out of anyone interested in self-sufficiency and what we eat or put into our bodies (medication, etc.) as it’s not well known (even if those same companies say the items are safe or the FDA (or in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) as well as Health Canada)) what the long term affects will be. Hey, Monsanto said it’s corn was safe and couldn’t pollenate other corn or harm animals; well than, how did it get into farmers fields where it had never been planted (in some cases hundreds of metres) way from Monsanto planned fields or into corn that was not originally genetically modified? As to insects, there were cases a couple of years ago of GM crops killing untold numbers of them (I believe it was butterflies) after they’d eaten GM corn and it had blown their intestinal organs up because they couldn’t digest the pollen as they could in non-GM crops. If I remember, the GM company said it was harmless and that the specific crop was only to impact a specific insect and not other beneficial ones… What scares me is what such a crop, deemed safe by the company and a person’s national food and drug regulation board, would do to us. I’ve read and heard anecdotally for the US, that the FDA is really just there to say “this is the minimum safety bar for drugs and food that you, a company, have to meet”; not to actually safeguard our health by asking the question “is the item (whether it be food or drug) not only better; but is it safer and cause less side-effects than what already is available”!

    Jack, keep up the great podcasts; also, what was your book about that you authored?

  8. You mentioned adding some links to where to get heirloom vegetable seeds, and links on how to keep your crops seperated to avoid cross pollinizing.

    Would you be able to add some links? I found some good posts about it in the forum, but maybe the links could still be here for those who don’t use the forums 🙂

    And as for what we’d like to hear more/less about: I am very happy with ALL the topics so far. It makes me hungry for more (although I DO need to focus on my first baby steps).