One of the options I like to offer is seed grown plants of those that are usually propagated vegetatively such as seakale, rhubarb and asparagus.* It also gives me the opportunity to look at a lot of seedlings. From these I might select something special - a new variety. In the process, I get to see all sorts of quirks of cotyledons - the first leaves.
different numbers and shapes
These are pictures from two commonly found seed varieties: Glaskin's Perpetual and Victoria. As they are seed grown, there are variations. Though most of these seedlings will be for sale, some I'll keep aside to be parents of a new seed crop. Selection starts from the first days as I look at colour and growth habit. Anything unusual, I will follow to see if it signifies a novel and useful trait. Disease resistance, cold hardiness, vigour, pest issues and of course flavour will follow. Aren't they cute!
* I also vegetatively propagate many of these plants too, especially really interesting varieties that won't come true from seed.
I find tuber crop breeding hard to resist. Get some good foundation seed, grow out the plants, select for best characteristics and then propagate. How much fun is that?
Of course the reality is that you may need to grow out a lot of plants to find something magical, something better than is already out there. (or not)
And if you are dealing with a crop like potatoes then you have to be aware of the potential for high alkaloid content. Good for the potato maybe, but less for the person.
At any rate, I was lucky to be given some TPS (that's fancy talk for True Potato Seed) from a potato enthusiast in Manitoba that has a lovely range of colour.
Given that it was fall and therefore the slow season for my nursery plant lights, I threw a whole bunch in a tray and watched them emerge. Once they were big enough, I selected a few that were interesting for some reason: healthy, dark leaf colour or other.
The plan is to let these micro tubers go dormant and plant them out in June to see their growth potential. Lots of selection will happen after that but maybe I'll have one or two varieties to grow out again next year.
I may also start another tray in a few weeks along with a direct seeding trial.
If TPS intrigues you, I recommend The Lost Art of Potato Breeding by Rebsie Fairholm.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.