Healthy Seeds are Happy Seeds

Healthy Seeds are Happy Seeds

Part of the responsibility that comes with maintaining a seed collection containing over 20,000 rare garden varieties includes testing for and eradicating viruses and diseases. This week the staff in our Preservation Department were busy performing ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests) to identify any squash specimens infected with the squash mosaic virus (SMV). Roughly 1,000 seedlings were tested from 28 varieties.

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An Afternoon in the Preservation Lab

An Afternoon in the Preservation Lab

The Preservation Lab at Seed Savers Exchange was buzzing with activity on this Friday afternoon in February. With about 13 full-time employees whose specializations range from germination testing to seed storage and everything in between, there's always something interesting happening in the Preservation Lab.

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What's Your Heirloom Tomato Name?

Ever wonder about the names of your favorite heirloom tomatoes? Some names are rather descriptive of the color, shape, or place they came from (Hungarian Heart, Green Sausage, Wapsipinicon Peach), others just make you scratch your head (Mortgage Lifter), and still others are equally descriptive and curious (Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Trucker's Favorite). We put together a guide for you to have some fun and figure out what your heirloom tomato name could be!

Heirloom Tomato

Comment below to tell us your heirloom tomato name!

(click here to view the 1700 comments from our Facebook followers!)


Heirloom Tomato Seeds


Browse the 90 heirloom tomato seed varieties in our online store



Heirloom Tomato Transplant


Browse our selection of heirloom tomato transplants




Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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Rowen White elected to Seed Savers Exchange Board of Directors

Rowen White

Decorah, Iowa —Seed Savers Exchange, Inc. is pleased to announce the election of Rowen White to its board of directors.  The election was approved at a special meeting of the board on Friday, February 7, 2014, bringing the total number of board members to nine directors. Rowen WhiteRowen White is a seed saver, farmer and educator.  She is from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and curates an extensive collection of rare northeast native seeds. She is the co-founder of Sierra Seed Cooperative in Nevada City, CA, focusing on local seed production and education.

White is a seed educator with Native Seed/Search Seed School in Tucson, AZ and has had a long standing relationship with Seed Savers Exchange (SSE).  She is the author, along with Bryan Connolly, of Breeding Organic Vegetables:  A Step by Step Guide for Growers.

“It is a great honor to have been selected to serve on the Board of Directors at Seed Savers Exchange,” White said.  “SSE is maintaining over 20,000 accessions of seed in a public access seed bank, while also honoring the cultural memory that seeds carry with them. What a valuable contribution towards the ethical stewardship of our precious collective inheritance of seeds. I have followed SSE's work on preservation of heirloom seeds with great admiration over these many years. “

SSE board chair Keith Crotz called the addition of Rowen White an important step in the organization fulfilling its goal to conserve and promote America's agricultural biodiversity.

“Rowen is an exceptional person who is committed to our non-profit mission,” Crotz said. “She will bring valuable experience to our education programs and help Seed Savers Exchange connect with the next generation of seed savers.”  White was elected to a three-year term.

For more information, contact: John Torgrimson, Executive Director (563) 382-5631

Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange operates an 890-acre farm in northeast Iowa where thousands of rare fruit, vegetable, and other plant varieties are regenerated and preserved in a central collection. Its mission is conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. SSE also facilitates the world's largest grassroots seed exchange. For information visit

Special October Membership Offer

Fine Gardening Magazine

Become a Seed Savers Exchange member during October to take advantage of these special offers:

Fine Gardening Magazine


Join Seed Savers and get a one-year subscription to Fine Gardening magazine - all for one low price of $59.99. Save $10 with this limited-time offer. Click here to join.





Join Seed Savers and get three issues of Grow - all for one low price of $55.00. This is 38% off the cover price. Click here to join.



-Or- Click here to see our other membership offers.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

In order to fulfill our mission, we:

- Maintain thousands of varieties of different plant types in one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America - Regenerate seed in isolation gardens and store them in ideal conditions - Document valuable cultural information on varieties and their histories - Distribute heirloom varieties to members and the public through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog

We rely on membership to support our organization and to help sustain the diversity of heirlooms in our seed bank. Join the 13,000 other gardeners and seed savers who support our mission!

Learn more about Seed Savers Exchange in this video:

Exerpt taken from "Garden Guardians" by Alyssa Gammelgaard and Bryce Kilker.


A Seed Savers Exchange membership entitles you to a variety of benefits:

  • SSE's Yearbook and the Heritage Farm Companion

    Access to the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and online seed exchange, an exclusive network of SSE members sharing over 12,000 unique plant varieties with one another

  • The Heritage Farm Companion, an award-winning quarterly membership publication
  • 10% off all purchases from SSE’s catalog, website, and Visitors Center
  • Discounts on registration for workshops and events
  • Enrollment in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, offering free admission to botanical gardens, arboreta, and conservatories across the country.


Show your support for pure seed and good food by becoming a Seed Savers Exchange member today.

2013 Squash Festival: Squashtastic

Heirloom Squash Display

Heirloom Squash DisplayThe fifth annual Seed Savers Exchange Harvest Festival incorporated a celebration of squash with all the fun activities everyone has come to expect at the autumn event. The versatile and dynamic Cucurbita genus offers so much more than just pumpkins and zucchini, and the SSE crew was eager to show it off. Along with a beautiful heirloom squash display, attendees enjoyed a variety of gourmet squash soups, workshops on saving squash seed, a lecture on the origins and evolution of squash, and a talk on the culinary uses of different squash varieties. Pressing apples for ciderFestival-goers also helped press apple cider, sampled a variety of apples from the Historic Orchard, learned to plant and grow garlic, enjoyed a guided edible and medicinal plant identification walk, and learned to make broomcorn brooms. Turnout for the event was great despite the wet and cool weather, which was decided by all to be ideal conditions for the soup cook-off.

The Harvest Soup Cook-off is quickly becoming a highlight for this annual event, where chefs from some of the most respected local restaurants enter a soup for attendees to vote on. In the days prior to the festival each chef was given a box of Potimarron squash, and each one showed up Saturday with a delicious and unique soup for the contest. After the ballots were cast and the votes were tallied, Chef Tom Skold of Albert’s Restaurant was declared winner of this year’s cook-off.

Winner of the soup cook-offEntering his Harvest Bean and Squash Soup, the chef admitted he had not handled the rare Potimarron winter squash before. He said of it, "With such a brilliant, colorful squash, I was really excited to use it," adding, "this is a transitional time where you can still get your fresh produce out of the garden as well as your fall crops. Everyone is interested in eating this time of year, so it’s really a good time to be a chef." Below you'll find Chef Tom Skold’s winning soup recipe.

Download all of the mouth-watering squash soup recipes here.

Potimarron Squash

Harvest Bean and Squash Soup


¾ cup Anasazi beans, soak overnight water to cover salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste 4 cups Potimarron (or butternut) squash, peeled, large dice 6 medium tomatoes, cored, halved 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 ancho chili pepper 8 cloves garlic, sliced 1 white onion, large dice 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped ¾ cup hard cheese (such as parmesan), grated


1. Drain the soaking water from the beans, cover in fresh water, bring to a boil with a pinch of salt, and simmer until thoroughly cooked.

2. Preheat oven to 425F. Place the squash and tomato halves on separate baking sheets and drizzle them each with 2 T. olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash and tomatoes 45 minutes at 425F and reserve, cutting the tomatoes in large pieces when cool.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Toast the ancho chili on all sides and remove; when cooled seed and chop. Add the garlic to the same oil, toast golden brown and remove. Add the onions to the same oil and cook until caramelized.

4. Add chicken stock, rosemary, cooked beans, reserved squash, tomatoes, chilis, and garlic to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Puree part of the soup to thicken, season to taste and serve topped with the grated cheese.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

Apple Pie: One more reason to preserve heritage apples

Apple Pie: One more reason to preserve heritage apples

When you have an orchard like Seed Savers with 550 apple varieties, no two pies are the same (or at least they shouldn’t be—what’s the fun in that?). Orchard Manager Dan Bussey reveals his favorite pie recipe with tips and tricks for working with heirloom apple varieties.

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Decorah Native Appointed Deputy Director of Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange

Lynne RillingDecorah, IA— Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds, is pleased to announce the appointment of Lynne Rilling as the nonprofit’s Deputy Director - Administration. This is a new position created by the Board of Directors to respond to the growth the organization has achieved over the last few years. A Certified Public Accountant, Rilling received her B.A. at Upper Iowa University.  She has extensive business and management experience, having served as controller/General Manager of Hotel Winneshiek as well as an accountant with Hacker Nelson & Co. Hired by Seed Savers Exchange in October 2011 as the chief financial officer, serving both as corporate treasurer and chief accountant, Rilling’s additional responsibilities will include management of human resources and the operation of the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center.

“Lynne’s skills, hard work and professional demeanor are a perfect match for our growing organization,” SSE’s Executive Director John Torgrimson said.  “She is a delight to work with and is highly regarded by her colleagues and peers.”

While at Hacker Nelson & Co. around 1999-2000, Rilling was assigned to handle the accounting contract at Seed Savers Exchange. “I always thought if there was an opening that was a fit for me [at Seed Savers Exchange] I would take it. I love the mission, vision, and values of the organization. It’s a fantastic place to work,” Rilling commented.

Rilling also has an interesting connection with SSE’s Heritage Farm, located six miles north of Decorah. The land where the iconic barn and Lillian Goldman Visitor’s Center now sits was once owned by Phillip and Clara Halse in the late 1800’s - they are Lynne’s great-great grandparents on her father Earl’s side of the family.

Rilling was born and raised in rural Decorah and is a graduate of North Winneshiek High School.  She is active in the community, serving as a board member on the Decorah Chamber’s Downtown Decorah Betterment Association.  Lynne and her husband Donald Rilling have three grown children, Justin, Jesse and Morgan.


About Seed Savers Exchange (SSE): Located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open-pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.

Varietal Evaluations: Carrots


The Preservation Department at Seed Savers Exchange works hard to maintain the rare collection of heirloom varieties we've acquired from farmers and gardeners over the past few decades. In order to keep this collection alive and well, our staff carefully plans and implements grow-outs to evaluate the varieties and regenerate seed stock. As part of this evaluation process, staff take meticulous notes about the characteristics of each variety when grown out. These photos document the evaluation process of a few carrot varieties (Daucus carota) after harvest, although evaluations of each variety really begin with the seed before it is planted.  

Carrot Evaluations




Freshly harvested and cleaned carrots.






Taking Photos




Horticultural Technician Steffen Mirsky takes portrait photos of the harvested varieties.






Data Entry




Detailed information is entered into a database for each variety on such characteristics as color, shape, length, and weight, as well as other criteria.





Carrot Scan



Varieties are then scanned and archived with the collected data.





Raw ‘Jaune de Doubs’ Carrots




The carrots are sliced to analyze interior characteristics and for raw taste-testing (picture: 'Jaune de Doubs').






Steaming Carrots



The carrots are steamed until tender. The steamed carrots are tasted and evaluated for culinary use.





Cooked ‘Amstel’ Carrots


Summary descriptions of each variety are written for the SSE Yearbook, with the hope that these descriptions will encourage gardeners to take the seeds from our collection and put them in their gardens and on their dinner tables (pictured: 'Amstel').



Please consider becoming a member of Seed Savers Exchange to support these preservation and evaluation efforts. Along with many other benefits, SSE members are able to access thousands of rare and unique heirloom seeds offered by other members in our annual Yearbook. Seed Savers Exchange also offers seeds from our vast collection in the Yearbook, allowing members much more diversity to choose from than what's available in the commercial catalog. In 2013, Seed Savers Exchange is offering 2,431 different varieties in the Yearbook for members to request. Join us today to help conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage.


Join SSE

Located six miles north of Decorah, IA, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers maintains a collection of thousands of open pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For more information, go to



Zucchini Abundance

Zucchini on the porch

Black Beauty Zucchini

It's that time of year again when gardeners everywhere are seeking out creative ways to utilize the abundance of zucchini and summer squash coming out of their garden.

Of course, here at Seed Savers Exchange we can't help but to encourage you to try your hand at saving seeds for next year's garden (scroll down to find a how-to guide for saving zucchini seeds). If you're interested in maintaining the characteristics of your variety in the next generation, you'll need to make sure your plants weren't cross-pollinating with other varieties. Of course, it can be fun to have a little backyard hybridization, too. Select one or two zucchinis to leave on the vine and save their seeds, then have fun with the rest! Make zucchini breads, cakes or soups that can be frozen and enjoyed later; Donate to a local food pantry or drop some zucchini on a neighbor's porch.

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Courtesy of Joanne Thuente of Seed Savers Exchange, here is a casserole her family loves:

Mom’s Zucchini Casserole

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cups zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 3 cups canned or fresh tomatoes, including juice (or 3 cups tomato juice)
  • 1 cup uncooked regular rice
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (or cheese of your choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown and season ground beef; set aside. (Omit beef for vegetarian option). Sauté onion and sliced zucchini in the olive oil for 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes; simmer for another 10 minutes.

In a large buttered casserole dish (2½ quart), layer the ingredients in the following order: half of the vegetable mixture, half of the uncooked rice, all of the ground beef, the remaining rice, and end with the remaining vegetable mix. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover, sprinkle the grated cheese over the top, and return to the oven, uncovered, for a few minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Serves 4-6.

Saving squash seeds


Find more seed saving tips on our website.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.