What are Heirloom Vegetables?
What is an heirloom vegetable? Vegetables that have not been genetically
modified in a lab. Typically these are the varieties that were grown long before
commercial monocropping became the way. They are the basis for today's hybrids
and GMO strains. Most of these are grown organically and have been preserved
from year to year through open pollination and seed saving.
These are the vegetables that grandma and grandpa raised and canned every year.
There is a distinct difference in flavor. You may have noticed that over the
years cucumbers no longer have the same taste or even smell. Strawberries don't
have the same flavor. The list goes on. Overtime we have looked for produce that
grows faster, longer, and is resistant to this and that. As Americans we have
also come to expect uniformity in our food. By growing GMO vegetables farmers
can produce tomatoes, peppers, etc that all look exactly the same. The need for
this arose when fast food into being and automation was necessary to produce
Commercial monocropping, where by a farmer grows only one type of crop, came
into being when the demand for uniform foods were required. Monocropping causes
a depletion of nutrients in the soil, infestation by pests that in a just a few
generations become resistant to chemical pesticides, and a number of other
issues. This lead to genetically modifying seeds so that crop yields increased
and they would be resistant to chemicals applied to the land. On the business
end of things this makes quite a bit of sense, if you are looking at the bottom
financial line for a major agricultural producer.
For many organic growers and the consumer population a return to using naturally
or organically grown produce is also a return to old varieties, heirlooms. Think
of jewelry that has been handed down for generations and family keepsakes. It is
unique to find yellow, orange, or even purple tomatoes. Carrots were not
commonly orange when they were first cultivated but purple and yellow. Even
radishes came in multiple colors.
Heirloom seeds and plants are being cultivated on a larger scale now.
Preservation of this piece of human history is important to future generations.
With the advent of chemical agriculture an ever growing need for disease and
pest resistant varieties of produce has grown. Common sense would say that now
these "old fashioned" seeds and plants are more likely to be resistant
Check with older members of the community to see if they have been holding on to
some seeds, I am sure they would be happy to pass them along to a new
generation. Write down any special instructions they give you to go with the
seeds. Their information is going to be more accurate than any book or seed
packet for those varieties. Don't ask them what variety of tomato, pepper, or
cucumber, they probably don't know. Those seeds have been handed down for
There are now a number of places to purchase heirloom seed varieties.
Bgarden.com - Listing of companies http://bggarden.com
Heirloom Seeds http://www.heirloomseeds.com
Nichols Garden https://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/store
Victory Seeds http://www.victoryseeds.com/
Posted by JP @ 01:00 AM EDT