Just because you buy a tomato (for instance) at the store and dry out the seeds, does not mean those seeds will grow, and if they do, it doesn’t mean they will produce. In fact, most seeds from tomatoes you get at your local grocery store likely won’t produce more than frustration if you try to plant them. Let me explain…
There are several types of seeds, and for the purpose of this blog, I will stick with tomatoes as our example. When you eat a tomato, you can save and prepare the seed to be planted again next year. (Stay tuned for those instructions in our next blog)
Some will grow, and you can save the seeds and grow the same, identical type of tomato.
Some will grow, and you can save the seeds, and you may get a slightly different tomato.
Some will grow, and you can save the seeds, but it will be a bit pointless as these are never really meant to produce.
Let us talk about the first case – getting the same type of tomato to grow: This is called “Open-Pollinated”. These plants produce fantastic fruits and provided you keep them far enough away from other breeds of tomatoes, they will pollinate. Once you save and properly prepare the seeds, you will get the same type of tomato out of these as the ones you got them from.
Onto the second type – POSSIBLY getting a different tomato. These are called “Heirloom” seeds. They start out as open-pollinated as we talked about above, but you can plant these in the same vicinity as other varieties of tomatoes. While pollinating, it’s possible that these different varieties may cross-pollinate, creating more diverse variety of tomatoes. These varieties typically become better suited for their area, soil, and climate. A healthy and fantastically producing Better-Boy Heirloom variety may grow very well for your parents in Georgia but may not be able to withstand the dryer and colder climates in Nebraska… even if open-pollinated Better-Boy tomatoes grow just fine up there.
As their name suggests, as the years pass, and tomatoes are planted, the seeds are saved and planted again, they are often handed down throughout a community or even in a family. These seeds have typically been prepared and planted for generations.
The last type we are going to discuss are Hybrid seeds. These are, more often than not, the ones you buy at your grocery store. So, if your kids have ever tried to plant tomato seeds from your latest shopping trip, they may get discouraged. Hybrid tomatoes are pollinated by humans or machines normally in a greenhouse setting. They were originally open-pollen tomatoes that were purposefully cross pollenated with several varieties to get a desired color, taste, and (of course, for business sake) the highest yield. Will they grow? They can. Will they produce, possibly. Will the fruit be tasty? Ummm… that certainly is subjective, so I will say maybe. If they do produce, it will not be a high producing plant and the fruit will not be of the same quality. If your planning on growing your own, keep in mind that Hybrid seeds will need to be purchase every year – and should be kept away from your open-pollinated and away from your Heirloom seeds.
- You definitely don't want years you've put into developing the perfect Heirloom seed for it to all be ruined by pollen from a Hybrid plant.