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Not all that long ago, seeds for heirloom vegetables were hard to find. Fortunately, that is changing. Several seed companies now specialize in heirloom vegetables. Others offer a mix of old-timers and modern varieties. As hopeful as this trend is, many heirloom vegetable varieties are threatened and may soon become extinct. Still, there is time to save these plants. All it takes is a patch of land (or a container), water, sun, and some seeds. The rest is up to you.

As every gardener knows, seed catalogs are wonderful reading. Between the tantalizing descriptions of varieties and the first-rate cultural information, many catalogs can double as reliable gardening books. They are also interesting as historical sources, but readers will sometimes find that catalogs offer some very different dates and historical information for certain heirlooms. Gardeners (especially those re-creating a period garden) should rely on the old rule of thumb that historical facts need to be verified with three independent sources.

Here are a mix of commercial seed companies, museums, and non-profit organizations that sell heirloom vegetable seeds, and the things you need to grow them. I selected these particular sources because I've had good experiences with them, or have heard good things about them from my sources. I list them here for informational purposes only, without any guarantees. There are, of course, many other fine sources of heirloom seeds.

Note: Many heirloom vegetable varieties are not available in the seed trade, but can be found through seed saving networks. For more information, see also: Seed Savers, Seed Exchanges, and Seed Societies


Merchants and Purveyors

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, MO 65704
(417) 924-8917
http://rareseeds.com
Catalog: Free online.
Baker Creek has been issuing catalogs for ten years now, and the current one builds on their already impressive offerings. They feature hundreds of non-hybrid vegetables, flowers, and herbs, this catalog is especially strong on hot-weather crops. It lists 44 different eggplants, 175 tomatoes, plus ample numbers of old-time corn, squash, and melons. The other garden vegies are here, too, just in smaller numbers.
Bountiful Gardens
18001 Shafer Ranch Road
Willits, CA 95490
fax: (707) 459-6410
email: bountiful@sonic.net
http://www.bountifulgardens.org
Catalog: Free online.
Offers only open-pollinated varieties, including some newer varieties as well as a fair number of old-timers. Of these, only a few are identified as heirlooms, even though many others, including some fairly rare ones, are also heirlooms.
Colonial Williamsburg: The Colonial Nursery Seed List
The Colonial Nursery
P. O. Box 1776
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776
http://www.history.org/History/CWLand//nursery1.cfm
Catalog: Seed list free online.
Gardening was part and parcel of colonial life, and this remarkable museum displays everything from the aristocratic pleasure grounds for the governor to a work-a-day kitchen garden of vegetables and herbs, all carefully researched and authenticated. Their "Colonial Nursery" sells period-appropriate vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, plus bulbs, gardening accessories, and other goodies.
Eternal Seed
657 Pritchard Road
Farrellton, Quebec
J0X 1T0
Canada
(819) 827-8881
Catalog: free
Even though their website is a work-in-progress, it still includes a fine selection of heirlooms, including some nice short-season varieties and some that are very rare. Many are grown organically and packaged without pesticides. They also offer many old-fashioned flowers (including some choice vintage sweet peas) and a long list of herbs. BTW, I've never had any problems with customs or plant quarantines when I've ordered seeds from Canada.
Fedco Seeds
PO Box 520
Waterville, ME 04903
(207) 873-7333
questions@fedcoseeds.com
http://www.fedcoseeds.com/
Catalog: Free online.

In addition to undeniable charm, vintage woodcuts, and amusing illustrations, this 100 page catalog has a mix of modern varieties and heirlooms. Among the latter, some are superstars, others are family favorites, many are historic. Informative write-ups help sort out which is which. Fedco has some rare varieties. In fact, they may be only commercial source for some of them. Of course, you're going to want these seeds. Order early. The deadline for mail orders is March 20.

Filaree Farm
182 Conconully Highway
Okanogan, WA 98840
(509) 422-6940 (Message only)
http://www.filareefarm.com
Catalog: Free online.
This organic farm offers hundreds of garlics gathered from literally all over the world. Some are heirlooms.
Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
5423 Princess Drive
Rosedale, MD 21237
http://www.heirloomtomatoes.net/
Catalog: Free online.
Donna Meinschein is now shepherding Chuck Wyatt's astonishing collection of tomatoes, and carrying his tradition forward. As before, this website offers hundreds different heirloom tomatoes -- red, pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and black tomatoes, big ones, little ones, short-season tomatoes, hot-weather tomatoes, and everything in-between. Best of all, Donna even has tomatoes that taste like real tomatoes.
Heritage Harvest Seed
Box 40, RR3
Carman, MB, R0G 0J0
CANADA
(204) 745-6489
http://heritageharvestseed.com/
email: seed@heritageharvestseed.com
Print Catalog: $2.00 in U.S. Free in Canada.
Specializing in rare and endangered varieties, this young company's catalog is chock-full of intriguing heirlooms. Some, such as 'Champion of England' peas, 'Boston Marrow' squash, and 'Tip-Top melon' are vegetable superstars of days-gone-by. Others, including 'Brandywine' tomatoes and 'Moon and Stars' watermelon are popular today. If those weren't quite enough, HHS offers Canadian originals, Native American vegetables, and short-season varieties. For many of them, HHS is the only commercial seed source. A laudable effort, especially since without niche seed companies like this one, many rare and choice heirlooms would simply cease to be.
Johnny's Selected Seeds
955 Benton Avenue
Winslow, ME 04910
1-877-Johnnys (1-877-564-6697)
http://www.johnnyseeds.com/
Catalog: Free online.
While Johnny's specializes in short-season crops, it also offers a nice selection of heirlooms identified as such.
Landreth Seed Company
60 East High Street, Bldg #4
New Freedom, PA 17349
(800) 654-2407
http://www.landrethseeds.com/
Catalog: Free online.
This historic company (founded 1784) offers an assortment of old and open-pollinated vegetables. This year, they added a page devoted entirely to the heirloom vegetables, many of which they have offered since these varieties were new. The 193 varieties listed here (with nifty vintage images) include many classics, and is worth a browse.
Native Seeds/SEARCH
526 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705-8450
(520) 622-5561, Fax: (520) 622-5591
http://www.nativeseeds.org
Catalog: Free online.
Specializing in the traditional foods from the American Southwest and northern Mexico, this non-profit organization offers a wide variety of crops developed by the Hopi, Apache, Navajo, and other farmers throughout the region. This catalog is strong in the "Three Sisters" of American agriculture: beans, corn, and squash, but it also has chile peppers, tomatoes, melons, and lots of other goodies including tomatillos, teosinte, gourds, and traditional cotton. The descriptions here are short, but these plants tell the real story about biodiversity and the people who care enough to preserve them.
Nichols Garden Nursery
1190 Old Salem Road NE
Albany, OR 97321-4580
(800) 422-3985, Fax: (800) 231-5306
http://www.gardennursery.com/
Catalog: Free online.
Offering an intriguing assortment of new and old plants, Nichols' catalog is always a treasure-trove. It has a good selection of heirloom vegetables, including some old-timers that have become popular again, and some odd-balls nobody else seems to have.
Old Sturbridge Village Seed Store
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
(508) 347-0244 (Gift Shop)

Gift Shop Catalog: Free online. Follow links from home page.
One of the premier living-history museums, Old Sturbridge Village has extensive period gardens. They also sell seeds, and the thirty or so heirloom vegetables from the gift shop are classics.
Plimoth Plantation
Plimoth Plantation Museum Shops
137 Warren Avenue
Plymouth, MA 02360
http://www.plimoth.com/
Garden like a Pilgrim, circa 1620. The seeds from the prestigious Plimoth Plantation museum are all the real deal -- Cornfield Beans, old pumpkins, Indian corn and others that the Pilgrims grew. Plimoth also has an interesting collection of herbs and other useful plants of the time, plus seeds of the native plants the Pilgrims encountered.
R. H. Shumway's
Customer Service
334 W. Stroud ST
Randolph, WI 53956
(800) 342-9461
http://www.rhshumway.com
Catalog: Free online.
Under a vintage banner "Good Seed Cheap," Shumway's catalog is illustrated with old woodcuts and color images from Victorian catalogs. The thing is, the "heirloom look" of their catalog is nothing new. This seed company has been around for more than 100 years, and their catalog looks like it did decades ago. Could it be that they never changed? In any case, styles have finally caught up with them. Some of the vegetable varieties Shumway sells have been around a long time too. Many of them are now heirlooms, although the catalog does not always identify them as such.
Ronniger's Potato Farm
12101 2135 Rd
Austin, CO 81410
(877) 204-8704
info@ronnigers.com
http://www.ronnigers.com/
Catalog: Free online. Ronniger's Potato Farm has long been known for its amazing collection of interesting potato varieties, including a number of rare spuds. Many are new or relatively so, but they've also got a fine selection of heirlooms. Many of the old-timers here had faded to obscurity, but Ronnigers brought them back and now offers them virus-free thanks to the high-tech world of meristem tissue culture. Certified organic.
Sand Hill Preservation Center
1878 230th Street
Calamus, IA 52729
http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/
Catalog: Free online.
What they're preserving at this small Iowa business is rare poultry breeds and a fine collection of heirloom vegetables. They sell seeds of about 350 different tomatoes including red, orange, white, yellow, purple, green, paste, winter-keepers, and who knows what else. They also offer more than 50 different sweet potatoes. In addition to these in-depth collections, they also have nice selections of corn, melons, peppers, squash, and other hot weather crops for sale. The catalog lists a smaller (but still interesting) selection of other open-pollinated vegies.
Seed Savers Exchange
3076 North Winn Road
Decorah, IA 52101
(563) 382-5990
http://www.seedsavers.org/
Catalog: Free online.
Associated with the Seed Savers Exchange, Heritage Farm maintains an astounding 20,000 endangered vegetable varieties. To help finance that worthwhile effort, Heritage Farm sells seeds of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers plus books and posters. Their collection of vegetables, which numbers more than 500 popular varieties, is particularly strong on heirloom tomatoes, beans, and peppers, but also has a nice selection of others.
Seeds of Change
P.O. Box 15700
Santa Fe, NM 87592
(888) 762-7333
http://www.seedsofchange.com/
Catalog: Free online.
Lots and lots of heirlooms, grown organically.
Skyfire Garden Seeds
1313 23rd Road
Kanopolis, KS 67454
no phone
Catalog: Free online.
Operated by a long-time member of the Seed Savers Exchange and organic grower, Skyfire specializes in heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables and easy flowers. The catalog offers a wide assortment of all the different vegetables, plus several intriguing in-depth collections. For example, the catalog lists more than 100 different tomatoes, more than two dozen different carrots, about that same number of peppers, and more than a dozen different summer squash. There are some real treasures here, including some hot-weather varieties and others that are rarely sold in the seed trade. What's more, the seeds are priced at only $1.75 per packet. New to this list, and a worthy addition.
South Carolina Foundation Seed Association
1162 Cherry Road
Box 349952
Clemson, SC 29634
(864)656-2520
http://virtual.clemson.edu/groups/seed/heirloom.htm
Perhaps the most interesting source of pass-along and handed-down heirlooms from Georgia and the old South, this foundation offers beans, butterbeans, corn, peanuts, squash, pumpkins, and others adapted to hot summers. Each of these varieties has a rich history, including some traditional Native American and African-American varieties. Dr. David Bradshaw, a professor at Clemson University, originally collected these varieties and kept them going. Now, the Foundation has made it possible for gardeners everywhere to grow treasures such as the plumgranny, healing squash, cornfield beans, multi-colored beans, and many, many more. A very cool list.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
P.O. Box 460
Mineral, VA 23117
(540) 894-9480, Fax: (540) 894-9481
gardens@southernexposure.com
http://www.southernexposure.com/index.html
Catalog: Free online.
Offering more than 500 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other seeds, Southern Exposure has an impressive assortment of heirloom tomatoes, plus many other choice varieties. The catalog includes lots of historical information.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
Monticello
PO Box 316
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Orders: (800) 243-1743. Customer service: (800) 243-0743
http://monticellostore.stores.yahoo.net/plants---seeds-seeds.html
Catalog: Free from web site.
Like his home, Jefferson's beloved gardens have been carefully restored and planted with the vegetables, herbs, and flowers he knew. Their 32-page catalog (illustrated with vintage woodcuts) is chock-full of history and lists an impressive collection of heirlooms.
Vermont Bean Seed Company
334 West Stroud Street
Randolph, WI 53956
(800) 349-1071
In addition to a huge assortment of vintage beans, this seed company offers a good selection of other vegetables. Some are heirlooms, but not all of them are labeled as such.
The Victory Seed Company
P.O. Box 192
Molalla, Oregon 97038
(503) 829-3126 (voicemail and fax)
http://victoryseeds.com/
Catalog: free online or $2.00 (refundable with order) for print version
email: info@victoryseeds.com
Along with some nice information about World War II Victory Gardens accompanied by original posters and pamphlets, this family seed company offers a good-sized assortment of heirloom and more recent vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

The Heirloom Vegetable Gardener's Assistant does not sell seeds (or anything else).
Please direct requests for print catalogs directly to the sources above, not to this site.
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