An heirloom seed offering has sprouted at Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville.
The Forest Preserve recently partnered with Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange to begin selling the group’s heirloom seeds to museum visitors.
“Seed Saver Exchange is a leader in preserving heirloom varieties that are open pollinated, non-genetically modified organisms,” said Chris Gutmann, the Forest Preserve’s north zone facility supervisor.
Open pollination means the plants are pollinated by insects or the wind. And non-GMO means the plants weren't created in a lab, as are hybrid and GMO plants.
Heirloom seeds have been passed down from generation to generation and they differ from hybrids in that their plants produce true seeds that can be used in subsequent years.
The heirloom seeds on sale at the museum range from arugula to zucchini. Some of the seed varieties being sold at Isle a la Cache date back more than 100 years. The Forest Preserve seed offering began with 56 varieties of heirloom seeds this year, but some varieties are already sold out, Gutmann said.
"Varieties that are popular with visitors will be offered for sale again in 2020," he said. "Visitors can also request specific varieties that we will add to the mix next year."
The seeds cost $2.75 per packet or five for $11.
The museum is a site that teaches people about the area’s cultural heritage, including the French fur trade era, and seeds and farming are another part of that history, Gutmann explained. The seeds will be part of a broader initiative at the museum to educate the public on the food our ancestors ate and how that knowledge can help us today.
“With these seeds, we are teaching about the past in order to help our future,” he said. “These open-pollinated, heirloom varieties have the genetic diversity to adapt to the rapidly shifting climate.”
Gutmann said he hopes the heirloom seed offering takes off and more people try growing their own heirloom veggies in the years to come.
“People can help themselves by growing their own garden,” he said. “And for a lot of people, it’s their only connection to the outdoors.”
For more information on the variety of heirloom seeds available for sale, call 815.886.1467 or visit the museum Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, noon-4 p.m.
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