There is a lot of confusion right now about seeds, and understandably so.
First, know you cannot buy a GE seed, what is commonly referred to as GMO, unless you are a farmer and sign a contract with Monsanto.
Second, a hybrid is not a genetically engineered seed. Hybrids can be crossed simply when a bee flies from one plant to another, from one type of melon to another for example.
This won’t affect your veggies, only the seeds.
So why are so many people vehemently anti-hybrid and pro-heirloom?
Well, for one thing, that sells seeds.
IMHO companies that sell primarily heirloom seeds are capitalizing on the confusion.
So let us set the record straight.
With some exceptions:
1. Heirlooms are more subject to disease.
Often a commercial hybrid seed grower (remember, not GE) will cross plants specifically to develop new ones that are more disease resistant. If your garden is particularly prone to certain diseases, a hybrid may be the better choice for you.
2. Heirlooms tend to suffer more from bug damage.
Similarly, commercial hybrid seed producers try to find varieties of veggies that are less prone to bad bugs, and develop this positive characteristic.
3. Heirloom plants tend to be less tolerant of temperature and weather extremes.
Again there are exceptions, but varieties bred for heat resistance for example, may do better in your yard than mine. As for early production, the hybrid Early Girl and the heirloom Oregon Spring both have done well in our gardens. I admit I preferred the taste of the heirloom, but I got a better production from the hybrid. Every gardener should decide for themselves.
4. Heirloom plants tend to produce less.
Because of the reasons already mentioned, and also since many hybrids are bred to be more productive, this circumstance tends to be true. We planted a hybrid Cashflow Zucchini and have never before seen such production. On the other hand, the heirloom Costata Romanesco, although producing significantly less, tasted far superior.
5. You can save Heirloom seeds, but not Hybrid seeds.
Yes and no on this one. Commercial hybrids do tend to be sterile for the most part, and if you do get a fertile seed, it will revert back to one of its ancestors. We will be looking into that more specifically this coming growing season.
As for saving heirloom seeds, you can’t just grab an eggplant or a pepper and keep the seeds with full expectation your next year’s plant will be the same heirloom.
Why? you may wonder.
Because, unless you know what you are doing, you may very well have produced a hybrid seed in your own garden. Through cross-pollination, whether by bugs or wind, your heirlooms might just have become fruit containing hybrid seeds.
In fact, in most cases they probably are.
Of course this is less likely to happen with beans and peas, and tomatoes will cross but not as easily as pretty much everything else. Corn? Forget about it! So you see, you need to know how & if they cross, and how to prevent it if you want to save heirloom seeds.
So you make the call on what is best for your garden.
They are not GE (GMO) seeds, so forget that for now.
If you want to save seeds, learn how. We will be showing that too, in great detail, this summer.
If you do not care to save seeds, then choose the veggie varieties that grow best in your area.
And most of all, don’t stress it.
Above everything else, gardening should be fun!