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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Vegetable Heirlooms vs. Hybrids

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What’s better than plucking a ripe, juicy red tomato right off the vine in your very own garden? As many gardeners know, there isn’t an accomplishment quite like growing your own produce and serving it to loved ones. If you’re just starting to delve into the hobby of gardening, you may have discovered that there are countless seed options. Not only are you deciding whether you should plant green beans or cucumbers, but you can’t figure out whether to go the hybrid or heirloom route.

What are “hybrid” vegetables?

Hybrid vegetables are created by crossing two selected varieties, sometimes resulting in vigorous plants that yield more than heirlooms. There are several reasons for hybridization, including increased productivity or disease resistance in food plants, and improved color or other visual attributes in decorative plants.

What are “heirloom” vegetables?

Heirloom vegetables are old-time varieties, open-pollinated instead of hybrid, and saved and handed down through multiple generations of families. Many heirloom vegetables have been saved for decades and even centuries. Typically, they are at least 50 years old and are pre-WWII varieties. They tend to be the best performers in home and market gardens.

Which type is better?

Some gardeners insist that hybrid tomatoes lack the “real” tomato taste of heirloom varieties. The seeds of heirlooms can also be saved from year to year, because those varieties will breed “true,” unlike hybrids. However, hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing while heirloom vegetables produce a “mixed bag” of results.

On the other hand, with heirloom vegetables you can choose what works best in your garden. If you save the seeds from heirloom vegetables over several years, you can gradually select seeds from the plants that perform best in your local soil and climate. This will give you a seed strain that is more resistant to local pests and diseases. However, keep in mind that heirloom vegetables will often have a bigger price tag.

What is best for you?

Typically, it is suggested that you grow a mix of hybrid and heirloom vegetables. Doing this will ensure a reliable harvest that offers a lot of variety. Tomato plants are a good starter for someone who has limited experience with hybrid and heirloom vegetables.

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