A Living Legacy

Published on 6th April 2018

When it comes to buying real estate, there are those who search for state-of-the-art, modern architecture and those who value the character and charm of antique dwellings—Victorian-era homes whose cosmetic flaws are overlooked by the appeal of their ancient design. There are pros and cons to both, of course, but which style a buyer chooses completely depends on which characteristics they find most crucial in the long run.

The same comparison can be made in the agricultural realm. When it comes to growing produce, hybrid seeds fall on one end of the spectrum, while heirloom seeds make up their vintage counterpart. Even though arguments can be made for the endorsement of both, heirloom seeds have increasingly taken a backseat in popularity over the last century as efficiency, abundance, and uniformity have become top priorities in commercial American culture.

Despite this shift in planting trend, there are many reasons to consider growing heirloom seeds or purchasing produce derived from them.

So what exactly are heirlooms anyways? Passed along through multiple generations, these old-time seeds are typically pre-World War II varieties that have been preserved despite contemporary changes in growing methods. Unlike hybrids, these seeds are open-pollinated, which means they are pollinated naturally through birds, insects, wind, or humans. This yields plants that not only have greater genetic diversity, but also remain true to their specific type every year.

Whether you’re an heirloom veteran or a potential first-time planter, there are several reasons why these seeds are worth a place in your garden.

1. Taste: There’s a reason why the tomatoes you bring home from the local supermarket aren’t nearly as sweet or juicy as the ones your mom used to let you pick from the garden. Because hybrid seeds are usually bred for toughness and shipping durability, flavor is often compromised.

2. Reusability: Since heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, the seeds can be saved and reused from one year to the next. Hybrids must be purchased annually as the seeds are unstable, which means they will either not germinate at all or become stunted and sterile.

3. Nutrition: Similar to the sacrifice in flavor, studies have shown that hybrid seeds result in less nutritious produce well. Instead, the primary focus of hybrids is to yield large, abundant crops.

4. Cost: Everybody wants to save money, and if you’re a gardener, one simple way to do this is by using heirlooms in favor of hybrids. Not only are they cheaper in the store, but since they can be reused, each year after the initial purchase is essentially free!

5. History: Heirloom seeds have been shared and preserved through lines of ancestry, which ultimately imprints them with their own unique background and rich history. Knowing where your plants come from can make the entire growing and harvesting process a much more fulfilling experience as you leave your mark in the ongoing story of your seeds.

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