I buy some seeds from a heriloom seed catalog. As well as buy some heriloom plants in spring. There usually is a much better selection in them. Ever year I devide and collect seeds from my plants that have been given to me by relatives, ect. That way I get more plants and it's free can't beat that right ? lol
I was once given tomato seeds by my uncle. They were saved from tomatoes grown by my grandmother during the Depression. Grandmother lived up until about 20 years ago and the uncle is now over 80 (my father is his older brother .
I've grown these tomatoes for about 15 years now. They may well be the "Porter" tomato but Grandma called it "the peddlers tomato" and that probably explains how she came to have it. I have grown Grandma's tomato and Porter side-by-side and still can't figure it out. These things can get a little muddled after so many years - both genetically and historically speaking.
It's my wife who claims this tomato is her favorite. I find it a little too mild for ranking that high on my own list but I'm very pleased that she likes it. Porters is an heirloom tomato by anyone's standards. But, Grandmother's tomato is a family heirloom and has also been continuously grown for about 70 years. We call them "Pearls" and they are not only pearl-shaped but "Pearl" was Grandmother's name.
I also grow and save the seed from a wonderful pole bean given to me by a gardening friend. I really think this bean is the Cascade Giant offered by Territorial Seed Company but the friend claims it is called "King's Banquet." I feel real special having them on my table and in my garden.
Finally, I ordered seed for a round white radish from an "International Seed Company" in Rhode Island about a dozen years ago. It had the special characteristic of smooth (not hairy) leaves. The root is just fine raw but we can chop the whole plant and toss it in stir-fries. I guess some people might eat the leaves in a salad.
The seed company must have gone out of business. I can't find it or this radish, the name of which I've forgotten. I remember that it was supposed to be from Russia and after some searching, I've found that some Chinese radishes have smooth leaves. I just make sure a few plants are saved for seed and continue planting and growing the "Russian" radish.
No, one thing about my job (drug discovery) is that if you just happen to have a good example of something in nature, it's a lot easier to use that example for all it's worth than to try to make something synthetically. Manipulating genetics and cells is much easier, safer and cleaner, than manipulating the products of petroleum cracking, chlorine gas and ammonia. So I try to save as many genes that could be convenient as possible, because you never know. I have heritage breed chickens, and try to get heritage breeds of just about every veggie and fruit I can lay my hands on.
Stonefruit, especially peaches and plums, seem to be the hardest. Peach trees just don't live for 200+ years the way a standard apple does--they tend to croak in the horrible storms that show up every 50 years or so.
I'm actually really excited this year: I got my orchard fenced off in the fall, and both a local farmer and one of my very elderly uncles who owns a farm, have heritage peach, plum and nectarines that they are going to let me take grafts from. My uncle's trees are fairly old (75-100 or so) just because our family cared for them like they were made of gold, but the local farmer just inherited his farm and had no idea what was on it other than a whole bunch of really old orchard gone wild--and it turned out some of that wild orchard was especially delicious peach trees.
I have a pole butterbean seed (not lima) that has been grown by my FIL, which he got from his father. He's not sure how long he's had it, but I'm guessing more than 50 years. This variety needs a strong support because not only is it a heavy producer, the vines grow at least 15-20 ft. The pods have a little point (it's sharp!) at the blossom end and the pod contains 2-3 small white beans. Its safe to say that this ain't your regular bush butterbean!
I've searched various catalogs and compared their butterbean's descriptions & pictures to what I'm growing and nothing matches. My FIL has been hounded by me to name this seed so I can send samples to Seeds of Change and South Carolina Foundation Seed Association. Passing seed down from one generation to the next, is a nurturing act that connects members of a family or community.