Heirloom or Hybrid, which is better? A review of the pros and cons of each seed type should help you determine which seed type meets your goals for a mouth-watering, flavorful and successful vegetable, flower, and herb harvest this season.
Hybrid seeds grow plants that are predictable and uniform. They have been bred for specific characteristics, such as flavor, color, number of days to harvest, resistance to disease, etc. F1 hybrids
also possess “hybrid vigor.” Typically this means more plants survive the seedling stage and mature plants are large and healthy.
Big Boy, Big Beef and Better Boy tomatoes are popular, well-known examples of hybridized tomatoes that are more “perfect” in size and shape while sacrificing some of the rich flavor of better known heirloom tomato varieties such as Cherokee Purple.
Although hybridized seeds may be strong in one or more particular characteristics, they will not produce reliable seeds for saving. Even if the variety is not sterile and does produce seed, the seed will be unstable—it won’t necessarily produce plants with the same traits as the parent in subsequent years. So if you enjoy a particular variety, you will need to purchase new seeds every year if you want to keep growing that variety.
Of particular concern to home gardeners is the risk that hybrids are or will become trademarked or patented by the breeder. Hence costs associated with producing patented or trademarked seeds are passed onto the consumer
Heirloom vegetable, flower and herb seed varieties are preferred by Organic gardeners for their superior flavor and for the capacity that enables you, the home gardener, to save your own seeds from year to year, saving the costs associated with repurchasing garden seeds each year. In addition heirlooms are the varieties that have been passed down generation to generation over the years often originating in Europe.
Of particular interest to organic gardeners and all consumers is the assurance that heirloom seeds are not genetically engineered. To be considered an heirloom, most authorities agree the seed variety is at least 50 years old, and it has been preserved and kept true .
Lemon Cucumbers are over 100 year old heirloom variety that effortlessly produces loads of fruit just the size and shape of pale colored lemons. They have a mild sweet flavor, crisp texture and thin skins, and dual purpose: perfect for eating fresh or pickling
Many heirloom seed varieties are actually common seed varieties you may have already tried and come to love. Examples of heirlooms you might already be familiarized with include:
- Detroit Dark Red Beets
- Nantes Carrots
- Romaine lettuce (and most lettuce varieties)
- Chantenay Carrots (the fatter carrot)
- Copenhagen Cabbage
At Paonia Farm and Home, we offer a wide selection of vegetable, flower and herb varieties in both Organic Heirloom seeds, and conventional seeds from well-known producers including Lake Valley, Botanical Interests, and Renee’s Garden.