I am sure that you have seen on many preparedness and survival websites that it is recommended that you choose heirloom seeds over hybrid seeds but why is this? Why does it matter what seeds you grow as long as you get the food you want at the end of it?
As more people are gaining knowledge about heirloom seeds their popularity is slowly growing and that needs to continue. One misconception that a lot of people have is that heirloom seeds are fragile and need lots of attention which couldn’t be further from the truth. Why this misconception? One big reason is that hybrid seed sellers are willing to lie their way to more customers.
- 1 What is an Heirloom?
- 2 Why Heirloom Seeds Matter
What is an Heirloom?
I came across an article which sums this up perfectly over on Burpee.com but I will give a quick rundown though I advise you to read their article to get a better understanding and a more in-depth look at what an heirloom is.
Now, when you enter an antique store, what are you looking to purchase? It isn’t something that is necessarily pleasing to the eye but you want something that tells a story, something that has some history attached to it. They are pieces that draw us in and make us think.
Heirloom plants are exactly the same in that they have a history attached to them. True garden lovers want to know where that seed came from and the story that goes with it. What is an “heirloom“? The definition is open to dispute. But the term is usually applied to fruit, flower or vegetable varieties that were being grown before World War II. They have been saved by multiple generations.
Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated–meaning that unlike hybrids, seeds you collect from one year will produce plants with most of the characteristics of the parent plant. And that’s key to their survival.
As mentioned, I do recommend checking out the article on Burpee.com for more information.
If we now look back at the misconception we mentioned earlier about them being fragile, knowing this information and how they have survived for so long, how then can they be so fragile? They aren’t at all!
Why Heirloom Seeds Matter
When you visit your local home improvement store or garden center, most of the seeds that you will see on the shelves are going to be hybrid seeds. You will find some heirloom seeds mixed in there but they are not your best places to find them. Your best choice for finding heirloom is actually online and from reputable dealers. We have looked at what they are but why should you be growing them? why do they matter? Here are just a few reasons why heirloom seeds matter:
1. Heirloom Vegetables Taste Better
Simply put, they just taste better than hybrid vegetables. They have more flavor, more juicy, more plump and once you taste those vegetables from heirloom seeds, the difference is noticeable. My own thoughts as to why they taste better is that heirloom gardeners just don’t use chemicals in their gardens. They are generally organic as they were supposed to be.
When you see fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes being sold in the supermarkets, they are hybrids that are designed to mass produce and be pretty much perfect every time though many times they also have little to no flavor.
The reason is that if you have a single plant that is loaded with fruit, the plant has to put energy into each and every one of those which it simply can’t do effectively. You won’t get that same result from heirloom seeds. Maybe the yields aren’t going to be as big but you are guaranteed that everything you pick from the plant will be top quality.
2. Open Pollination
Many gardeners will simply go back to the store each year when they need seeds whereas with heirloom seeds you are harvesting seeds from the plants that you yourself grow each year. If you are slicing a piece of fruit and vegetables and you see seeds, why throw them out when you can save them and use them yourself the following year?
Hybrid seeds are what is known as “close pollinated“. This means that somebody purposely pollinated the plants to create another plant with qualities of the first two. “Open pollinated” on the other hand are done so by nature alone which could be with the help of bees, birds or even the wind.
3. Heirloom is Less Expensive
This almost crosses over with the point made above about being able to save seeds for use the following year. If you are not having to keep buying seeds every year then you are going to save yourself money in the long run. They may cost a little extra in up front costs but when you won’t need to be buying more, you are soon making that money back.
If you decide to branch out into new varieties then you can find local heirloom enthusiasts and trade your seeds from your seed bank so that you are not needing to buy more.
4. Heirlooms are Unique
When you start growing heirloom plants you will soon notice that they are not all the same. You will have fresh fruit and vegetables for weeks rather than buying a bag from a store and having to use it fairly quickly. Hybrids on the other hand are designed to grow on a schedule meaning that every fruit on the plants will be ready at pretty much the same time. Heirlooms have their own schedule!
5. Heirlooms Have a History
We have already mentioned this but if you skipped that part, heirlooms have a history and you could just end up eating the same variety that your own great, great grandparents were eating many, many years ago. They have been passed down over decades. You can research different varieties and if they have been grown by our ancestors for all those years, there must be something great about them.
6. Heirlooms Have an Increased Nutritional Value
In most cases heirloom fruit and vegetables are more nutritious than hybrids. You need to remember that heirlooms are ripened on the vine whereas hybrids are picked before they are ripe to extend their shelf life. As we mentioned, hybrid plants are packed with fruit and the nutrients just cannot be pushed around every fruit on the plant effectively.
7. There is a Wide Variety
When you visit the supermarket what do you see in the grocery aisles? You see the same old varieties of fruit and vegetables time and time again. These do not change and so you find yourself eating the same variety of carrots or the same variety of tomatoes or radishes every time. There are so many more varieties out there that you just don’t know about yet they taste so much better.
Because of hybrids you are trained to only trust a tomato if it is red yet actually there are other color tomatoes too. The same goes with other fruit and vegetables. By going with heirlooms you can diversify what you and your family are eating. That dish that you just eat because you have to eat something can be given new life once you start growing heirlooms.
8. They are Environmentally Friendly
This may not be a big deal for a lot of people but for me, the less seed packets that I am buying, the less packaging that there will be. Saving your own seeds doesn’t require a lot of space yet when you buy a packet of seeds you will notice that the packets are so much bigger than the space used by the seeds inside.
There are many more reasons as to just why heirloom seeds matter so much but we hope that this post has given you something to think about. While many people like to grow natural foods, there is so much more to it. You are doing something that promotes self-sustainability and you are keeping history alive.