Q. What’s the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds? And which type of seeds is better for the home gardener to use?
A. Heirloom seeds breed true, meaning that the fruit from seed you harvest from the current plant will be the same as the current plant and its fruit, generation after generation. This means that if you like the current harvest you can use the seeds with confidence that they will give you the same thing next time, and every time.
Hybrid seeds have been cross-bred to achieve improvements in flavor, productivity, disease resistance, holding capacity, or other characteristics which people want and request. However, the next generation cannot be counted on to be the same as the original plant, and thus we need to continue buying seed from the seed grower to be assured of the same end result.
Producing seeds in your own garden is no big problem if you’re growing crops with seeds in the fruit, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. However, for things like lettuce, cabbage, and onions you have to let the plant stay in the garden while it “goes to seed” – sometimes for as long as a second year.
This can make a mess of your garden, and foul up your plans for continuing to grow food to eat.
Harvesting, drying, and saving the seeds are also problems to consider before deciding to grow your own seeds.
I recommend people get the best advantages of both hybrid and heirloom plants by buying and using the world’s best vegetables and fruits from reputable seed companies, and buying a #10 can of 16 varieties of high-quality triple-sealed heirloom seeds from the Food For Everyone Foundation at www.foodforeveryone.org/store.
Store the can of seeds in a cool dry place, and you will have the protection of good heirloom seeds for many years, while at the same time your family harvests and eats the best produce possible.