When you shop for seeds, there are two types to choose from: hybrid or heirloom varieties. Both are great and have their own advantages!
Hybridization was created to improve food and flower crops. Hybrids are the result of two plants with desired characteristics being deliberately crossed to produce a new variety. Unlike genetically modified organisms (GMO) modified in a lab setting through transferring DNA from one plant into new plant cells, hybrids are crossed in a controlled but natural process, and many varieties are bred under organic guidelines.
Hybrids are usually more productive and vigorous than heirlooms. They may be bred to increase disease resistance, market holding capacity, early maturity, uniform shape or color.
Hybrids are pollinated in the same way that heirloom plants are pollinated, by insects, wind or other natural means. During the creation phase, they are manually pollinated with compatible and desired plants in isolation. If you save seed from a hybrid, from these seeds you will grow one of the parents, not the plant that you retrieved the seed from, hence if you like that specific variety you should buy new seeds every year.
Heirloom vegetables are old-time varieties, they are pollinated by insects, birds, wind, or other natural means and retain their original traits. Heirloom varieties are also called ‘open-pollinated’ or sometimes ‘heritage’ varieties.
The seed is often saved and handed down through multiple generations of families and accompanies historical information or stories that are important to agriculture. They often have unique characteristics not found in grocery stores and an ‘old world’ taste desired by many chefs and home cooks.
If you save seeds from heirloom plants, they will produce seeds that are true-to-type (that is, similar to their plant parents) And by seed saving over several years, you can gradually select seeds from the plants that perform best in your local soil and climate or traits you desire.
Heirloom varieties are less uniform than hybrids, which means they often don’t mature or ripen at the same time, grow in a similar habit or taste the exact same. Though many heirlooms have been saved for decades because they are the best performers both in home and market gardens.
Our favorite heirloom varieties are:
Our favorite hybrid varieties are:
Check out our summer blog on seed saving here.