When you think of an heirloom, you think of something like Aunt Agatha’s rocking chair – a one-of-a-kind antique that, if reproduced, just won’t have the same quality.
As a person whose paying job involves words, I find it ironic that “heirloom” can have an entirely opposite meaning when it refers to plants. That’s why I couldn’t resist sharing this article.
When it comes to vegetables, fruits and flowers, “heirloom” means that the original quality will keep reproducing year after year! In fact, many heirloom seeds can trace their ancestry back hundreds of years, making them genuine “antiques.”
What’s the difference between heirlooms and the plants we usually grow?
Virtually all of the seeds we buy are hybrids. They’ve been bred to be more consistent in ripening and harvest time. In addition, they can be transported thousands of miles without damage. Major growers prefer them for these reasons and others.
Hybrid seeds are almost always sterile. If you want to grow that variety again, you must buy new seeds each time.
Heirloom fruits and vegetables may look funny compared to their perfect, shiny supermarket cousins — but not always. This photo, courtesy of Moonlight Micro Farm, shows a beautiful organic Silvery Fir Tree Heirloom tomato.
But they offer that fabulous “old-fashioned” flavor that many people remember. Other benefits make them perfectly suited for the backyard gardener or smaller grower:
– You can collect the seeds and plant them next year.
– The seeds themselves may be less expensive than single-season hybrids. And you can trade them with others through heirloom seed exchanges.
– The fruits and vegetables don’t ripen all at once, so your harvest season is longer.
– Many people also believe that heirloom fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than hybrids.
And don’t forget that if the zombie apocalypse occurs, heirlooms will be the only way to feed your family year after year!
Give heirlooms a whirl this season. Here’s a great place to start.