Seed Saving: Heirloom Squash Posted on 1 Oct 14:58 , 0 comments

Next up in our Seed Saving series is Heirloom Squash. In case you missed it, you might want to start with Seed Saving Basics to help you get started.

At the end of this tutorial is a video on Seed Storage that will come in handy.


Seed saving is fun and definitely a useful tool.

Before you start saving seeds from squash it is important to understand pollination and cross pollination.

Squash plants are Monoecious, meaning they produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. The flowers are found in the axils of the leaves. The flowers can be easily distinguished from each other as the female flowers have an ovary at their base that looks like a small, immature fruit. In order for fruit set to occur, pollen from the male flower must be transferred to the female flower.

Squash plants of the same species can cross pollinate. That means that if you plant Black Beauty Zucchini and Patty Pan squash (both Cucurbita pepo) close together then they can cross pollinate. But a Golden crookneck Squash (Cucurbita pepo) won't cross with a Butternut Squash (Cucurbita moschata).

When crosses occur between members of the same species, we do not see the effect of the cross the first year. However, if the seeds are saved and planted, the plants will produce fruit that will be different from either of the parents.

Ready to start saving seeds?

As I mentioned in a previous post, it is best to harvest seeds from overripe "fruit" in this case squash. **If you cut straight through the squash (like I did) then you risk cutting into the seeds**

Instead, cut around the outside of the squash just into the skin/flesh and then pry open with your hands or a spoon.

How can you tell it's overripe?
In this case, the normally green striped squash has gone yellow. It was on the plant like this. The seeds you can see are "plump" and should be viable.

Clean up your seeds.
Wash the seeds to remove any flesh and strings. If you do not remove the pulp/flesh from the seeds, it can cause your seeds to mold. Mold is bad.

Dry your seeds.
Cure the seeds by laying them out in a plate or drying screen to dry. It is not recommended to use a paper towel as the towel can retain moisture. Store them this way in a place that is dry and out of direct sunlight.

Store your seeds.
Allow the seeds to fully dry before storing them. Some sources recommend 3 to 7 days but I tend to use caution and dry for a bit longer. Storing damp seeds can lead to moldy seeds. Mold is bad.

When your seeds are ready to store, use paper envelopes, recycled jars and/or containers and be sure the LABEL your container.
Store seeds in a cool, dry spot away from direct sunlight.

Don't forget to label your seed packs!



SEED STORAGE is just as important as seed saving. More important even. It would be frustrating to go through all steps to properly harvest your seeds only to have them fail or have lower germination rates because they were not stored properly.

Avoid storing your seeds in open containers were bugs and critters can get to them. Don't store your seeds in hot spots like an outside shed or garage as heat can degrade seed viability.

As promised, here's a live chat video about seed storage.


Stay tuned for more specific seed saving techniques and seed varieties. -Mary


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Seed Saving: Heirloom Basil Posted on 24 Sep 05:47 , 1 comment

First up in our Seed Saving series is Heirloom Basil. In case you missed it, you might want to start with Seed Saving Basics to help you get started.

Basil seeds are pretty easy to collect so I thought this would be the perfect plant to start with. Just a few flowering basil plants can produce hundreds of seeds.
From seed to harvest, basil leaves are ready to eat in as few as 45 days. To collect basil seeds will take a bit longer.

When a basil plant gets too hot or older, the plant starts to "bolt" producing flowers. If you want to keep the plant producing leaves, pinch off those flowers. Otherwise, the plant will expend energy growing those flowers and producing seeds instead of leaves.

For seed saving, allow those flowers to continue growing. When they start to look a little dried out, it's time to harvest seeds.

Bring a basket, box or large container out to the garden with a pair of scissors. Gently snip off the entire flower stalk. Inside of those flowers are tiny seeds. When you are done collecting flowers it's time to collect seeds.

I use a large bowl for seed collecting. Use your fingers to gently roll those flowers over the bowl and the seeds should fall out. Some people use a colander in the bowl to easily separate plant material and seeds. The tiny seeds should slip through the holes in the colander leaving just plant material in the colander when you remove it from the bowl.

Basil varieties can cross pollinate. Basil plants are pollinated by small flying insects. The different varieties will cross pollinate, so it is important to isolate a favorite cultivar by at least 150 feet.

There are several ways to grow multiple varieties of basil and avoid cross pollination.

The first is to stagger planting, which doesn't always work because the plants can still bolt at the same time.

The next option is to pinch off flowers from varieties you are not saving seeds from and collect seeds from one variety at a time.

Another option is to plant your basil varieties at least 150 feet apart. Cluster your planting of each variety and plant other crops in between. If you have a front yard garden and a backyard garden this can be an easy task.


Once you have collected your basil seeds, it is important to ensure that they are dry before storing them. Leave the collected seeds on a plate or drying screen for several days in a cool, dry spot away from direct sun.

Remember to label your seeds when you store them.



Stay tuned for more specific seed saving techniques and seed varieties. -Mary


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Seed Saving Basics Posted on 18 Sep 09:33 , 6 comments

Seed saving is becoming more and more popular with backyard growers. It is exciting to see so many people ask about the "how to" of seed saving. Without generations of seed savers before us, we would not have the precious few heirloom varieties we have today.

Onion flower almost ready for seed collecting


When you think of seed saving you might be focusing on flowering plants producing seeds and the actual collecting of those seeds. In some cases it is the actual act of saving a food crop seed from disappearing, never to be grown again.

In an 80 year period, 1903 to 1983, it is estimated that 93% of heirloom seed varieties were "lost" or became extinct. Now more than ever, the act of saving seeds and protecting biodiversity is critical.

I wrote Protecting Seed Diversity & Our Future back in 2017 and it is still relevant today.

Let's start with the basics.

Why is it important to save seeds?
There is something truly amazing about planting seeds that you grew and saved.
Protecting genetic diversity is a great reason to save seeds. Working towards a more sustainable, sufficient lifestyle/garden is another great reason. Saving seeds is like printing money only better because you can't eat money (gross).

When you save seeds from your best plants each year you're gradually making improvements. Future seeds will be more adapted to grow in your particular climatic and soil conditions.

Make sure you start with open-pollinated, not hybrid, seeds or plants. Saving seeds is easier than most people think. For many vegetables and flowering plants, it’s as easy as plucking dry seeds off the plant and storing them. Wet seeds that come packaged inside of fruits take just a few more minutes of easy work.

The vegetables recommended for beginning seed savers are beans, peas, tomatoes, and lettuce. That is because these vegetables are self-pollinating, reducing the chance of undesirable crossbreeding. However, there is still a chance that they may be insect pollinated with another plant of the same species in your garden.

If you plan on harvesting seeds, it is important to understand "market maturity vs. seed maturity." By this, I mean that some crops are ready for eating long before the seed is mature. Examples of this include cucumbers, eggplants, peas, beans, and cabbage.


 Many of the heirloom seeds we offer at Mary's Heirloom Seeds have a rich, unique history. They have a "story" to tell. By saving and planting seed, you add your own chapter to the story.

Collecting Seeds

This is the fun part! Collect seeds from healthy plants, specifically plants that are not diseased or stunted. This is an important step. You can also choose to select seeds from that's with specific traits, such as heat tolerance and productivity.

Keep in mind that if you are leaving pods on the plant for seeds or allowing them to "bolt" your plant might slow down on producing food. Basil for example, for leaf production it is recommended to pinch off flower. However, if you are working on saving seeds, you will need those flowers for seed production.

Wet Seeds

I mentioned earlier that "wet seeds" take a little more time. Wet seeds are seeds inside fruits/veggies like tomatoes, cucumber and eggplant. These seeds will need to be rinse and left to dry before storing them. It is important to remove any damp plant matter from these seeds to prevent molding. Tomato seeds are usually fermented for optimal germination. I will discuss this in depth in a later article.

Once you have collected your wet seeds, place them on a drying rack or plate to fully dry. This can take a few days to a few weeks. I do not recommend storing on a paper towel as the towel can hold moisture, causing it to mold and the seeds might also stick to the paper towel. A plate or drying screen will allow you to move the seeds around to adequately dry seeds. Your drying area should be in a cool spot, away from direct sunlight. Do not use an oven to dry seeds.


Dry Seeds

Dry are usually the easiest seeds to collect. A few examples of dry seeds include Zinnia, Sunflower, Basil, Cilantro and Beans. These seeds are either right out in the open or left in the pod to dry out. As we get into specific seed varieties and saving seeds from them, you'll see that there are a few different ways to collect dry seeds. This Sunflower seed head is HUGE and not even the largest one we grow!


Storing Seeds

"Seeds in good condition and stored properly should last at least one year and, depending on the plant, may last two to five years." This is specific for optimal germination. If you are going to plant old seeds, you can perform your own germination test to check their viability.

Seeds should be stored in cool, dry and dark spot.

You can use Jars, bags and bins.  You can re-use containers and get creative

Some people store them in a jar in their refrigerator or freezer. I don not store my personal seed stash in a refrigerator or freezer as my seed stash would not fit. Instead, I store individually packaged containers in a large tote inside a large closet in a cool spot

If you intend to keep your seeds in a basement or area that might flood, a watertight container is a MUST. One of my customers let me know that they learned this the hard way.

Be sure to seal up your seeds to keep out bugs and rodents. Another customer let me know that she learned this the hard way.

Seed storage is a frequently asked question. This video is great for those of you that have purchased extra seeds and/or saved seeds.



As a special request, we also offer seed saving envelopes. You can choose from printed or plain. These are the same material as our seed packs at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.

Made from 40% post-consumer recycled paper and 100% compostable.

Made in the USA. Acid free

This is just the first in our Seed Saving Series. In case you missed our live chat about Seed Saving, here's the replay



Stay tuned for specific seed saving techniques and seed varieties. -Mary


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

15 Survival Seeds to Stockpile Posted on 26 Oct 15:26 , 2 comments

TIP: Stocking up on seeds for SHTF only works if you're actively growing and rotating seeds!
Please don't fall for the "lasts indefinitely" claim from most survival seed companies. Seeds most definitely have a shelf life (even in mylar bags). No one grows a perfect garden every year so if you're planning on growing, PRACTICE is essential.
We have been asked many time if we plan on offering a "survival seed pack" but it's just not something we want to encourage.  We do however offer several Seed Combo packs as well as a Back to Basics Homestead pack.
There are many reason to be prepared and not all of them are a complete collapse of our system.  Sickness, loss of a job or a reduction in wages are just a few very personal reasons to prepare for the unexpected.  
Being prepared doesn't necessarily need to be for TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it).

Reasons for Food Insecurities include
Job Loss
Rising food costs
Crop failure due to Weather or Water Shortage
Farm labor shortage
Interruptions in transportation of food
Civil unrest
Natural Disasters, as we've seen in recent months, are another VERY important reasons to be prepared.  Due to our aging infrastructure and roadways, emergencies can stall the delivery of goods, leaving a community without food for a given period of time.  While the recent hurricanes and wildfires have wiped out many people's gardens, their gardening experience cannot be taken away.
Getting Started
-Find out what grows best in your area and when to plant for your region.
Our Planting Guide for the US is a great resource
-How much space do you have for growing and is it adequate for feeding your group
*I'm working on a plant spacing article so we'll update this article soon*
-How many plants and varieties do you need to sustain yourself and/or your group
-If you're newer to Growing, it might be a good idea to start with easier varieties.  Stock up on all of the food varieties that you eat but start planting the easy ones.
-Timing is everything!  If you're in a very HOT climate, usually summer is not the time to plant.  If you're in a cool or cold climate, it is best to plant indoors to get a jump on planting season and/or provide a greenhouse to extend your growing season.
Our Planting Guide for the US is a great resource

-Learn to Save Seeds! 
FIRST and most important: Seed Saving from your own harvest is preferred. Store bought produce can be GMO or even hybrid. Even organic store bought can be hybrid.  Hybrid seeds can be sterile and will not produce true offspring from saved seeds.
Open-pollinated, heirloom seeds will grow seeds that can be saved and re-planted year after year.

Read Seed Saving Part 1 

Don't Wait until it's Too Late
As we mentioned above, 
"No one grows a perfect garden every year so if you're planning on growing, PRACTICE is essential."
Learn to grow the foods that you eat regularly.  Canning and preserving those foods would be the next step in being more self-reliant.  You'll find that growing food takes a bit of patience and knowledge of soil, sun and water.  If you have clay soil you mid need to amend with compost.  If you have rocky soil you may need to grow in raised beds.  These are things you'll learn as you grow. 
We offer 3 new videos about using Compost and Manure to amend your soil and these resources are FREE!

Beans - Easy to grow and preserve. Beans are very high in fiber, calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K
Spinach -  Cold hardy and prolific. Many call this a superfood based upon its large array of vitamins such as Vitamin A, C, iron, thiamine, thiamine, and folic acid.
Carrots - Another hardy crop that requires very little space. This root crop is a good source of carbohydrates, vitamin A, vitamin C
Squash - Both squash and pumpkin are prolific producers.  Both store well, especially winter squash. Seeds can be saved and/or roasted and consumed. Squash has lots of carbohydrates and a great nutrient list, including Vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium and potassium.
Allium varieties - This includes Onions, shallots, Leeks and garlic.  A good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, folate and potassium.
Beets - Easy to grow and multi-functional.  Both roots and greens are edible making beets a dual purpose crop.
Tomatoes - If you can keep your pest issues to a minimum, tomatoes can produce an abundance of food from a relatively small space. Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin A, C, K, E, Potassium, thiamine, and Niacin
Broccoli - Another cool weather crop. Broccoli is a good source of protein, Vitamins A and K, and carbohydrates
Peppers - From a medicinal view, peppers such as cayenne are essential for natural remedies. Peppers are high in vitamin A and C
Eggplant - Not something most people would think to grow but still an important one.  Eggplant is relatively easy to grow and can grow for 3 or more years.  Bonus, it's pretty easy to save seeds from Eggplant
Asparagus - An essential perennial. Depending on your region, established Asparagus plants can continue to produce for 30 years (some report for longer)
Amaranth - Another dual purpose plant.  Amaranth is naturally drought tolerant.  Seeds from the amaranth can be used as a grain (cook just as you would quinoa).  Leaves can be picked while young and tender and eaten raw or sauteed as you would spinach. 

Radish - If you need a FAST maturing crop, radish is one of the best.  From seed to harvest, radish is mature in as few as 25 days.  Seeds are easy to save from crops and just as easy to stockpile.

Corn - I know I mention grain below but Corn deserves a specific mention.  While corn might not be the easiest crop to grow, it has many uses.  Most people automatically think of Sweet Corn.  However, Dent Corn & Field Corn are important.  Both can be dried and fed to livestock.  It can also be dried and ground into cornmeal. 
Grains - If you have livestock on your homestead, grains can help feed them.  Grains are a good source of carbohydrates, are high in dietary fiber and manganese

HERBS: Natural pest control can be obtained thru companion planting with herbs. If you're planning on making your own herbal remedies, medicinal herbs are a must.

FLOWERS: Do not underestimate flower power!  We use many flowers planted throughout our garden for companion planting and to attract bees for pollination.  Most common flowers we use are Borage, PurpleConeflower, Marigolds, Nasturtium, Plains Coreopsis, Cornflower, Yarrow, SUNFLOWERS and Calendula

Potatoes - *Keep in mind, seed potatoes do not keep.* You must continually replentish your stock from your own crops (or Mary's Heirloom Seeds as long as we have internet). Potatoes are a staple diet of many of the world’s peoples, especially those in the west. The contain potassium, copper and B6 and are really good to ‘fill you up’ at mealtime. They are also usually pretty easy to grow, although some varieties are very disease prone. 

I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  if you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to

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SEED SAVING Series Part 1 Posted on 9 Sep 07:08 , 0 comments

Saving seeds from your garden bounty is like putting money away for a rainy day. Best of all, saving your own seeds is one of many ways to regain control of your family’s source of food.

FIRST and most important: Seed Saving from your own harvest is preferred. Store bought produce can be GMO or even hybrid. Even organic store bought can be hybrid.  Hybrid seeds can be sterile and will not produce true offspring from saved seeds.

Open-pollinated, heirloom seeds will grow seeds that can be saved and re-planted year after year.

SECOND: Cross pollination is always a possibility if you grow multiple varieties of the same crop. Tomatoes for example.  You can avoid cross-pollination by creating barriers of plants and distance or planting only 1 variety to save seeds from each season.

Regardless of plant type, one rule is universal: The seed must ripen on the plant in order to ensure best rate of germination. This means your peppers must turn red, orange or yellow (whichever color when fully ripe), your eggplants and cucumbers need to turn yellow, your beans and peas must be “rattle dry” in their pods, and your corn must be left on the stalks until the husks turn paper-brown. Pumpkins, watermelons and melons must be vine-ripe; keep them a few weeks longer in a dry place until they are almost rotten.

PICTURED is a very over-ripe Cocozelle Zucchini. You'll see that the skin started to yellow (and harden). Once you have saved seed, clean it and allow it to dry thoroughly. Seed that is not absolutely dry when stored will develop mold, which will kill it.

Dry seed should be put away in airtight containers in a dark, cool place until needed—always date the container. Some seeds will keep for many years

Below is our VIDEO about pollination and cross-pollination

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Ancient Seeds (part 2) Posted on 20 Jan 14:45 , 0 comments

From our first post Ancient Seeds,  The definition of an heirloom is a seed variety that is more than 50 years old.  Some prefer a variety that is over 100 years old. An heirloom seeds is NOT a GMO and is NOT a hybrid.
At Mary's Heirloom Seeds, we offer a few varieties than can be traced back as far as the 1700s!  It's true!  

The first variety I'd like to share is the SEMINOLE PUMPKIN.  
From Slow Food USA,
The Miccosukee name for this product is “chassa howitska” meaning “hanging pumpkin”. The reference is to the method by which the pumpkin grows, as the Seminole and the Miccosukee people would plant the pumpkin seeds at the base of girdled trees, so that the pumpkin vines would grow up the trunk, and the pumpkin fruit would grow to be hanging from the bare limbs. It was under cultivation by Seminole people before Spaniards arrived in Florida in the 1500s. Immigrants to Florida also adopted this cultivation method, producing hundreds of pumpkins per acre.
Next up is the MAYFLOWER BEAN

This is the bean that is said to have come to America with the Pilgrims in 1620. This old cutshort green bean has great flavor and the red/white beans are quite tasty. A long-time staple in the Carolinas.
It is also known as "Amish Knuttle" bean



Originally from Virginia and traced back to 1845 (most likely grown and traded by Native Americans long before this).  Stalks grow 10-12 ft. tall producing 2 to 6 ears per stalk. Kernels are blood-red with darker red stripes, and occasional white or blue kernels. Great for flour, cereal, or roasting ears.


The Rouge Vif D' Etampes Pumpkins are a gorgeous deep red-orange. A very old French Heirloom, this was the most common pumpkin in the Central Market in Paris back in the 1880's. The flesh is tasty in pies or baked. This one can also be picked small, like summer squash, and fried.

An heirloom variety also known as Bohemian Squash and Sweet Potato Squash,  Introduced in 1890s.  Delicious, creamy sweet potato like taste.  Delicata has a fine grained, light orange flesh steamed or baked.

Delicata has a very tough skin which makes if perfect for baking on coals, on the grill or to just simmer in its on juices while in the oven.   This tough skin also serves as the perfect wrapper protecting it for up to 6 months in storage!  

This heirloom was brought from Tennessee by the Cherokee people as they were marched to Oklahoma by the Federal Government in 1839 over the infamous "Trail of Tears" that left so many dead and suffering. This prolific variety is good as a snap or dry bean and has shiny, black beans. Hardy, vining plants. 

From Vegetables of Interest, "One such story is that of a black bean grown by the Cherokee in the Carolinas which had no name other than "bean."  It  was carried by the Cherokee along their journey as a source of food and a token of hope.  Once in Okalahoma it was re-named the "Trail of Tears Bean" and has been maintained by the Cherokee since that time."
"Trail of Tears" beans



An Heirloom cabbage dating back to the 1880s

Charleston Wakefield produces a larger head than other Wakefield Cabbages.  The large, 6-8" elongated heads tip the scales at 4-6 lb., and store extremely well. 

Charleston Wakefield has a short season at only 70-85 days!  This heat tolerant Cabbage does well in just about any climate in the US



Considered a staple corn of the Hopi people, this corn can be eaten as a sweet corn when young, or allowed to dry it can be used to make flour.
Hopi Blue has a higher protein content than a dent corn and makes wonderful tortillas. The 7 inch, dried blue ears also make great autumn decorations. Plants are 5-6 feet tall. 


At Mary's Heirloom Seeds we also offer a very unique selection of both Medicinal and Culinary herbs, some that have been used for centuries.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!


Saving & Storing Garden Seeds for Next Season Posted on 28 Oct 20:38 , 2 comments

We've had quite a few request about what to do with left over seeds.  At Mary's Heirloom Seeds, a packet of Snowball Self-Blanching Cauliflower contains 200 heirloom seeds. If you don't plant all 200, You can share them with your friends and family or you can store them for next season/year.

For the best germination rates, try to use all stored flower and vegetable seeds the next growing season. Seed health and viability goes down the longer the seeds are stored.

How long can seeds be stored?

From ehow, "Seed health and viability goes down the longer the seeds are stored. If you must store seeds longer, keep in mind that most types of seeds last approximately 3 to 5 years for optimal germination. 
For flowers, annuals typically last anywhere from one to five years, while perennial seeds can get stored for two to four years. Regardless of the type of seed, the sooner it gets planted, the better.

If you plan to save your own seeds they should be from produce that is very ripe but not rotten.  Remember, cross-pollination is always a possibility when/if you plant in close proximity.

Seed saving is easy for varieties that "bolt" (flower and go to seed) such as Basil, Dill and Cilantro.  Allow the seeds to fully dry and store accordingly.

Pulp and Seeds removed
Cleaned and dried seeds from an Amanas D'Amerique A Chair Verte Melon

Storage Options
If you save seeds from your own produce, seeds should be completely cleaned and dry before storing.

Paper is the best storage option for seeds.  Packets should be labelled with date of storage and variety of seed.

If you are storing purchased seeds they have already been cleaned.  If possible, store seeds in their original packaging to avoid mixing up seed varieties.

Excessive heat, light and moisture can damage seeds and make them less viable.  Some people store their seeds in the refrigerator and that's just fine.  I prefer a cabinet or closet (not in the garage, around the oven or above the refrigerator.
Store seed packets in a glass jar and keep in a cool, dry, dark place.

I like to use these Purple Vintage Jars 

The purple jars are a bit darker than the regular jars and they're super easy to label.  Check em out at Mary's Heirloom Seeds, Heritage Collection Seed Saver Jars!

We've added a few new, medicinal varieties this past month.  Have you seen em?

Marsh Mallow
Did you read our article Mycorrhizae The Fantastic Fungus ?


I hope you have enjoyed our latest educational article.  If you have additional questions please feel free to contact us at

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