As spring is finally upon us, it is time to start thinking about our garden! When deciding on what vegetables to plant people will often look for different things to best suit their needs. Are they looking for unique flavors, maybe disease resistance or it could be a higher yield? Whatever the reason there are typically two varieties of plants that you will find at a garden center: heirloom and hybrid.
Heirloom seeds are just that: heirlooms. These are varieties that tend to be over a half-century old and have been passed down from generation to generation due to their unique characteristics. People love heirlooms and tend to share them with future generations because of their enhanced flavor and unique appearances. Heirlooms also will be open pollinated which means that the seed that comes from the fruit of the plant will produce the same plant that it came from.
So this begs the question: if heirlooms are so coveted why is it that we rarely see these vegetables in the produce section? The reason is that most of them have their limitations, things like poor disease resistance, extremely short shelf life or low yield. All this could stop a commercial farmer from wanting to grow these plants. That being said, the benefits might outweigh the risks on a smaller scale giving you all the more reason to try some of these truly delicious varieties.
These are made by cross pollinating two or more types of plants within the same breed. The reason for this is to try and pull the best traits from both varieties. This produces a high yielding plant along with disease and pest resistance. The advantages of hybrids is that they tend to be easier to grow with more predictability and output. That is why you tend to see a lot of commercial growers choosing these varieties.
One common confusion is mixing up GMO and Hybrid plant varieties. These two things are not the same.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants that have had their DNA modified by engineers to maximize the characteristics they seek in plant production. For the last hundred years, gardeners and farmers have been cross-breeding selective varieties of plants to produce higher quality and quantity of vegetable crops. Scientists have now taken this process into the lab to modify the DNA of specific plants. The majority of GMO crops will be found in corn and soy and almost exclusively found in the commercial sector. These plants tend to create a toxin that will repel pests so less pesticides are needed for GMO crops. However, it is believed due to altering of the DNA it increases allergic reaction and increases one’s antibiotic resistance. GMO plants are banned in many European countries and you will not find GMO seeds or plants in our store either!
It is always fun to experiment with the different varieties in the garden, so if you have always grown your Better Boy tomatoes, maybe try something new like some Brandywine, Amish Paste or Cherokee Purple tomatoes. What are some of your favorite varieties out there? And what is your reason for growing them?