Heirloom – Hybrid – GMO – In My Garden Can You ‘Really’ Know Or Tell Them Apart?

Heirloom In My Garden – Re-posting From March 2011 – With Updated information.

The term Heirloom seed, does not seem to be well defined and is arbitrarily applied to seeds and plants by growers and sellers personal beliefs in what qualifies to be called a Heirloom plant.
Many growers use 1960 >(50) years old, 1950 >(60) years old some say <1918-1920 post WWI when hybrid seed era ballooned into a full fledged agricultural business. The deeply entrenched heirloom growers, claim that plants must be documented back to 1910 or earlier. To a time before wide spread experimental hybridizing began.

General definition of an Heirloom is a cultivar that was/has been commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not now used in modern large scale farming. Most growers do agree that heirlooms, by definition, must be open-pollinated.

This also means that any insect, bee or wind drifted pollen can and often does pollinate you ‘heirloom’ plants from pollen donated by hybrid’s or by a different variety heirloom plant near by. Even you without knowing can introduce a different variety’s pollen by brushing against the plants and moving pollen from plant to plant on your clothing.

Seed producers, seed sellers and wholesale seed distributors, will never tell ‘You’ the buyer that the seeds you are paying a premium for may in fact be an accidental hybrid seed. Unless your seed(s) were produced under highly filtered, enclosed, insect free conditions you can not be assured you are getting a true, pure package of ‘Heirloom’ seed. I don’t think this should be of big concern for home or commercial growers. Heirlooms of today were selected by nature under Darwins {Survival of the fittest} theory. Don’t let any seed seller tell you this is a pre-historic variety, because it is not. Even ‘Heirlooms’ favor evaluation over time, adapting to soil, disease, insects and weather growing conditions.

Some heirloom growers swear that ‘their’ heirlooms are more hardy, take less water and fertilizer and taste better than modern hybrids. I think this is mostly an unintended deception being perpetrated on seed buyers. The true fact is most heirlooms have little resistance to many of the fungus and viruses found in commercial growing operations as well as in home gardens. In close growing conditions, these plant diseases are passed from plant to plant by insects, in the soil and even carried on gardeners clothing and the wind.

As for the needing less water and fertilizers, this may have some truth in it. However they seldom remember to tell the buyer that in general heirlooms, produce fewer pounds per plant than their hybrid counter part. Of course the number of pounds of fruit produced has a direct effect on that plants water and nutrient needs. Hybrids grown under the same conditions as a heirloom will generally still out perform a heirloom in total produce by weight of fruit produced, it just will not be as pronounced as plants that are properly watered and fertilized.

Heirlooms taste better! Maybe, maybe not. I truly don’t think most consumers can tell much if any difference in taste when both a heirloom and a hybrid are allowed to become fully vine ripe before picking and consuming that produce. The so called cardboard taste we consumers find in supermarket fruits and vegetables is most caused by timing of produce picking and the consumers them self’s in demanding their supermarket shelf being fully stocked with hundreds of varieties of ready to eat produce, 365 day’s a year. I know of no vine ripe fruit or vegetable that can stand up to being picked when fully ripe, shipped thousands of miles, placed on supermarket shelf for many days before reaching the consumer.

Don’t go postal on me. I grow a few heirloom varieties, but, most of what I grow is hybrids. It is a choice that I make when choosing my garden seed. You have the same opportunity. Select, plant and grow what makes you the happiest whether it be Heirloom or Hybrid seed.

Just keep in mind, that the main reason heirlooms came to exist was more an economical reason than that of plant hardiness or taste. Few people could afford to buy new seed every year. New store bought seed was in short supply, expensive and hard to come by. Many times farmers and gardeners lived many miles from towns and traveled by horse, buggy or wagon. The solution to this problem was a simple one. Save seed from this years crop to plant next year. It became common for family members, friends and neighbors to give away excess seed or to trade for plant seed they did not have but wanted or need to grow to feed their family to survive the next upcoming winter..

Home Grown Food Really Is Better For You – Re-posting From July 2010 – With Updated information.
Please note that I said ‘Home Grown’ not Heirloom! Home Grown fruits, vegetables and meats really are better for you. This fact is simply because ‘you’ control how they are grown. What if any fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics or hormones they are treated with.

I will not debate the merriments of Heirloom, Hybrid or Genetically Modified seeds. Suffice it to say I am not a fan of genetically modified plants and seeds.

Heirloom vegetable is a cultivator that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large scale agriculture. In general heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination. Heirloom fruit varieties such have been propagated over the centuries through grafts and cuttings. Many defined heirloom plants as any plant developed 50 or more years ago or some will say before world war two [1941].

Heirloom plant growers will say heirloom vegetables taste better and are more nutrient rich than hybrids. I think thats just a lot of wishful thinking. I believe the biggest advantage to heirloom gardening is that you can save seed from this years crop for planting next years garden. However with the low cost of buying new seed every year I see little ‘real’ advantage in being a fanatical seed saving heirloom only gardener. Please don’t go gunning for me, gardening should be fun as well as providing a lot of fresh food for your table. No matter what your seed choice may be.

Hybrid seed is produced by artificially cross-pollinated plants. Hybrids are bred to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance, and so forth. Today hybrid seed is predominant in agriculture and home gardening and is one of the main contributing factors to the dramatic rise in agricultural output during the last half of the 20th century.

Hybrid vegetable seed in American gardens and the commercial growers market was launched in the 1920s, with the development of hybrid maize. Hybrid seed cannot be reliability saved, as the seed from the first generation of hybrid plants does not reliably produce true copies of it’s self, therefore, new seed should be purchased for each planting season. Almost all garden seed sold in America at nursery shops and discount stores are hybrid seeds unless marked as a heirloom seed.

Antibiotics is a substance or compound that kills bacteria or inhibits their growth. Most antibiotics are now semisynthetic modified chemically from original compounds found in nature, as is the case with penicillins, produced by fungi in the genus Penicillium. Some antibiotics are still produced and isolated from living organisms, such as the aminoglycosides, and others have been created through purely synthetic means.

Sometime I do use antibiotics to treat my sick livestock {poultry, sheep, goats, and cows}. I generally kill and dispose of sick rabbits and poultry. My policy is based in cost of treatment verses cost of replacement of that bird or animal, nothing more, nothing less.

Whether you grow Heirlooms or Hybrids, whether you have a large or a small garden, have fun and be happy knowing that you are putting healthy, good tasting fresh food on your table for you and your family.

Why is Common Sense so Uncommon?
Don’t be Shy. Leave me your Comment(s)


One response to “Heirloom – Hybrid – GMO – In My Garden Can You ‘Really’ Know Or Tell Them Apart?

  1. Very informative. Thanks for the re-posts.


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