Sought after seedlings?

This is interesting… A South African woman in search of more interesting vegetables, “purple cauliflower, broccoli and peas, round carrots, yellow carrots and beautiful candy-striped beetroot” as she says, has started importing heirloom vegetables from Italy.

The Franchi Sementi seeds are open pollinating heritage/heirloom varieties, and are now available in SA from her website, Sought After Seedlings:

While I love the idea of heirloom vegetables (after having read Barbara Kingsolver’s, ‘Animal Vegetable Miracle’), I’m not so sure  about foreign heirlooms.  Can you just plant foreign vegetable seeds in South Africa? Isn’t it a bit risky? What if they take over? Don’t we have our own heirlooms?  Or are alien veggies not as scary as alien trees?

That said, the vegetables look INCREDIBLE!

Bridget McNulty
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22 replies on “Sought after seedlings?”

Bridget, almost all domesticated crops grow all over the world. There is very little chance that they “will take over” as for instance your typical alien invader will do. That said, as long as the seeds are not genetically manipulated, you have very little to worry about.

Heirloom seeds are often used in organic production as they are open polinated varieties, definately not GM and would be safe to use. Often small scale (organic) farmers will use these “strange” varieties which most often have an unusual colour or authentic taste as they can sell them for a higher price to niche markets.

We recently visited an Organic Greenhouse run by Frank de Koning in Tinte in the Netherlands as part of our Organic Plant Production course. He grows over 10 different Heirloom Tomatoes varieties. It was amazing to see the variety, colours and different tastes.

There is no problem with Heirloom seeds, and actually they should be encouraged, as without this sort of promotion (mainly from the organic world), they could be lost forever. These days we eat such a narrow selection of plants, and whats more, these varieties are controlled by a handful of powerful capitalistic seed companies.

I am all for these ancient heirloom vegetable seed varieties.

Dear Bridget,
Firstly thank you for your comments. I am the owner of Sought After Seedlings and I would like to respond to your question on whether these seeds can be a problem for our environment. Let me shed some light, it is a long and arduous task to get foreign seeds into our country, we have very strict Agricultural Laws, probably the strictest in the world, therefore there are MANY applications which need to be adhered to, in order to import foreign vegetable seeds. A permit is required for every species and authorization is required for every single variety! All the diseases which certain vegetables are prone to, a risk analysis is always done by our Agricultural Department, and they know which diseases are a threat from which countries and only then, once all the phytosanitary requirements are met, for each species and a permit granted, may you then import the seeds! Everyone who sells foreign vegetable seeds, MAY ONLY DO SO WITH A PERMIT, so as to avoid any risks to our environment. I hope this answers your questions. Please feel free to contact me.

Thanks for the clarification, Linda and Shaggy! I’m dying to try the different types of heirloom tomatoes, but my brothers had me so spooked about aliens that I didn’t want to get hooked if they weren’t sustainable.
Now I’ll dive right in. Thanks!

Hi there
Have just been onto “sought after seedlings” website and am horrified at the prices. What a rip off. Permit or no permit required (i dont care what kind of marketing she is doing) – there is absolutely no need for this kind of rip off of the south african gardening society.
Import your own i say.

Hi Guys, I’ve just been reading the post (and comments) and Linda is right getting seed into SA is a tedious task. I’m the owner of www. and we have been collecting OP and Heirloom seed for well over 15 years now, first as personal hobby and it’s grown (scuze the pun) into a small business. We grow ALL of our seed on our own property and none is imported, our seed typically comes from other gardeners that are “seed savers” that share or swap seed with us. If you are looking for a good source of clean OP and Heirloom seed that is locally grown at reasonable prices come check us out. We have well over 100 varieties and we will be adding another 10-15 in the next week or two as the seed is processed, graded and packaged.

I would like to know all about what you have to offer in the line of vegetable seeds. I plant for my own use and I would like to know the price, size of the seed packets, availability (the nearest outlet,I live in Boksburg)and what seeds are available. Many thanks, Wolf

Please send me a catalogue of material that is remotely viable in Muizenberg, Cape Town; 100m from the sea in False Bay. Colin

Hi Bridget and Shingi

I am first generation Italian living in South Africa. The prices on sought after seedlings website for the Franchi Sementi are very cheap. Last year’s price in Italy for the same brand of seeds where 3 euro each. That was at the shop prices. You do the maths. Now this lady is charging the same price as they sell at shops in Italy from last year? She is very reasonable. I’m sure she has to pay import duties and freight costs as well. So this is no rip off. The quality of these seeds is extremely fantastic. They are worth their pound in gold. She has such a variety that I will absolutely buy from her. As for importing the seeds yourself is illegal and may never reach you as they will be confiscated the minute they land. Should you try to import yourself there are no way you will get them cheaper in fact you would properly land up paying more. My family has used this brand for years and its superior quality. We are fortunate to have access to these seeds so that we can grow them ourselves. I will be promoting sought after seedlings website to all my European friends who understand the value of these seeds. Try them before you knock them. You will never turn back and became a fanatic over franchi Sementi.
Happy growing!!!

Hi all.

Very interesting reading. I’m also an avid lover of tomoatoes, and I grow (and sell) a few beauties like Green Zebra, Floridity (the sweetest baby plums ever!) Garden Peach, Snowberry and Orangeberry, but my big passion is chillies. Luckily I have access to the more exotic varieties, and the hottest varieties. I would love to import on a permanent basis, but it seems like the hassle is just not worth the effort! Visit for a list of all varieties.

Where are you doing a plant production course? Im doing an apprentiship in Organic Vege farming in Germany at the moment and amlooking for somthing in ZA to further my education when I get back


I bought through the mail locally produced heirloom seeds and paid about R20.00 a packet. Most did not germinate. There were very (I mean very) few seeds in each pack and the germination was poor to non existant. I subsequently bought through Sought After Seedlings which have a generous amount of seeds in each pack and the germination results have benn from good to excellent. I bought Pak Choi seeds from Bio-org (Mahlathini Organics) and there were only about 30 seeds in the pack for over R20.00 a pack!One Pak Choi plant produces many hundreds of seeds – thats a rip off.

hey julian. thanks for the feedback. its good to hear people’s first hand experience of gardening companies.

Met Linda once before at a shop in randburg,Shes a nice person with lots of knowledge of growing. I will be purchasing some vegetable seeds soon, soughtafterseedlings has a great selection!

I have more than 1000 heirloom vegies I have 5 heirloom patatos including Sethland black, Higland burgandy red and congo blue, and 2 more LOL, I even have a banana Heirloom with seeds in the fruit (pink valvet banana) Peter peppers, Vanilla pompona, Black pepper, Saffron, you name it I have it

I have Jerusalem Artichoke tubers for sale. Lovely tall yellow “sunflower” like flowers in summer and nutty flavoured tubers in Autumn. They are invasive. Contact me if you are interesed

Hi all,

Hmmm, interesting thoughts. I definitely understand where people are coming from when they say they feel ripped off by heirloom / heritage seed suppliers. Receiving 20 seeds in a pack and paying R20.00 for that same packet is untenable. And as hard as I’ve tried – no-one seems keen to sell these varieties in larger quantities. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

But, uhem… Frans,

I would be extremely interested in talking to you about the heirloom varieties you have. Those potatoes look amazing! And I just googled the “Pink Velvet Banana” and all I have to say is – Wow!!!

If you would kindly get in touch with me, it would be most appreciated.
My email is

Many thanks.

Good evening all. Regarding any worries about imported vegetable seeds going rampant and becoming “Invasive”… how would this really be a problem? Not that it would at all be possible for edible vegetable species to survive so long outside the gardens where they are planted (think opportunistic pedestrians who wander by), but how would having “too much” food ever be a problem in South Africa?? 😀

Do keep in mind folks that a lot of the cost of seeds go into the time it takes the people to sort, label and check the quality of the seed. Certain brands also have fancy packaging, which would add to the cost, plus import costs as mentioned.

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