Ok so here it goes. Another hot topic. One issue at our garden club that seems to continually come up is, Hybrid vs Heirloom. Which is better? I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t grow hybrids. If it gets you outside in the sun and gets your fingernails dirty, I’m all for it. For what it’s worth, here is my take on the subject. 5 reasons why I believe everyone should be growing heirloom vegetables.
Heirlooms Taste Better
I thought I would start with this one since this is the most heated topic regarding heirlooms. Those on the hybrid side of the fence will argue that certain vegetables have been bred not only for disease and bug resistance, but also taste.
Although I have grown quite a few hybrids that certainly are delicious, I am yet to find any as good as the heirlooms I now choose to grow. I also might add that taste is subjective. There are factors that affect taste. Growing conditions being a major player and of course variety.
Heirlooms are Cheaper (with a caveat)
I think we can all agree that seeds are cheaper than vegetables. And most would also agree that going to the nursery or big box store and buying seedlings is certainly cheaper than buying the amount of vegetables these plants produce. But the comparison I’m making is not between hybrid and store bought, but rather hybrid vs heirlooms. There is a substantial savings between buying a packet of seeds rather than a flat of starts. One seed packet will cost about $2. That same packet can produce sometimes up to 30 plants. If you went to the market and bought 30 plants, they could possible cost you over $100. Now there is an exception to this rule. Many nurseries offer heirloom seedlings. And if you buy hybrid seeds then the cost goes way down. BUT, if you grow hybrids, you will not be able to save the seeds to replant the following year.
For me, this is a big one. Just a quick scan through an heirlooms seed catalogue will reveal hundreds of varieties of vegetables to choose from. You can pick one that matches your requirements regarding taste, days to maturity, size, shape etc. You are not limited to the choices that hybridizers give you.
After growing a certain vegetable variety, saving the seeds and replanting year after year, Over time, the plant will start to adapt to your specific location. In other words, it will slowly acclimate to your environment. If, for instance, there is a specific tomato you like, you grow it year after year and watch it start to adapt to it’s new home. Essentially becoming accustomed to its environment. There are however certain limitations to what it can adapt to. I’m not suggesting that if your area is prone to hail storms, that somehow it will magically develop steel stems. That’s just not going to happen. But you will be amazed at how well it does adapt.
This is the absolute biggest reason for me. I believe that no person has the right to patent life. And that life also includes plants. Even if that person or corporation develops a completely new genetic strain. They are NOT creating life. They are genetically manipulating already created material. And it is that material that I believe should NEVER be owned by anyone. No matter how much they manipulate it. So by selling hybrid vegetable seeds, the companies are taking two heirlooms or open pollinated varieties and crossing them. Now I’m certainly not suggesting there is anything ethically or morally wrong with that. I’m just suggesting that there shouldn’t be a patent on it.
Secondly, because it is hybridized, the offspring from saved seeds will usually not produce a plant similar to the parent. therefore, if you like a certain hybrid variety, you are forced to buy new seeds every year. And this process makes you a slave to the one holding you hostage to your food supply. We must always maintain the independence and control over our lives and should NEVER yield or submit to others in this regard.