Seeds: Heirloom vs. Hybrid

I thought it might be helpful if I took this excerpt from one of the Lessons From Butterberry Farm entries, and put it into a post all on it’s own.

As Mrs. Faith  was telling us about her corn, she also explained to us that there are two kinds of plants: “open-pollinated” and “hybrid”, the first of which is what she and Mrs. Addy use in their gardens. I’ll explain the difference:

“Open-pollinated” means that the plants cross naturally; it’s pollen is carried by the wind, bees, and other natural ways. When the seeds of these plants are saved and replanted, the next generation will look just like the first. These plants may not produce fruits that are perfect in shape or color, but the taste is true, and far superior to any other. The seeds can be passed down for generations.

“Hybrid” plants are artificially pollinated. They are genetically modified to produce certain characteristics such as uniform shape and size, and increased productivity. In the quest for the seemingly perfect cross of plants, much of the flavor is sacrificed in the process. The seeds from these plants are sterile, or will grow a plant which produces no fruit, so you cannot keep the seeds; you’ll have to keep buying more.

The seeds that you buy in pretty little packages at the store are hybrids.

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, and have been passed down for fifty to a hundred or more years, from generation to generation. They produce the most flavorful, and beautifully unique fruits. Since they originated before the advent of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, they respond better to more organic farming methods, such as compost and manure. These are the kinds of seeds that Mrs. Faith uses in her garden, and I have ordered for my own. You can buy them from catalogs or online, or you may be lucky enough to find a distributor in your area.

I had no idea about any of this. I’ve tried saving seeds from produce that I had bought at the store, thinking that I could just plant them in my garden, whenever I started one. I had no idea that had I planted those seeds, it would have all been for nothing!

When I placed my order for seeds I scoured the internet for the “best” choices for each variety; the ones that people said were the best tasting of each.

Paris White Cos leaf lettuce
Paris White Cos leaf lettuce

Here is what I found and ordered (my order came from Heirloom Acres):

  • Carrots: Scarlet Nantes and Tendersweet
  • Cantaloupe: Hales Best Jumbo
  • Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield
  • Corn: Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet
  • Cucumber: Ashley and Homemade Pickles
  • Lettuce: Paris White Cos Romaine
  • Onion: Walla Walla
  • Pumpkin: Small Sugar
  • Watermelon: Moon and Stars
  • Broccoli: Green Sprouting
  • Green Beans: Kentucky Blue Pole
  • Bell Pepper: California Wonder
  • Potatoes: Yukon Gold
  • Strawberries: Sparkle
  • Tomatoes: Amish Paste, Yellow Marble, Black of Tula, Cherokee Purple, Delicious, Brandywine Pink
Scarlet Nantes carrots

Anyone have any other favorites to suggest?

6 thoughts on “Seeds: Heirloom vs. Hybrid”

  1. Heirloom Acres does take a while to fulfill orders. They’re just a regular family, not a huge corporation. As long as you know you’re in for a 3-4 week wait and order accordingly, groovy. 🙂

    Just wanted to make sure you’re far enough north for the WW onions… they’re long day onions if I remember right, so won’t bulb up if you don’t have something like 14-15+ hours of daylight or so during the height of summer, they won’t do their thing. And again, depending on your growing season, Moon & Stars (if I remember right) isn’t one of the shorter season melons. I’m attempting Blacktail mountain this year, so we shall see if I get any melons this year. 😀

    I had more thoughts, but have since forgotten them because of a mud-covered child vying for attention.

  2. Kendra,

    If I remember correctly, you ordered your seeds through Heirloom Acres, correct? I’m asking because I ordered seeds through them as well. I ordered them a little over 3 weeks ago and have since tried to contact them twice to check the status on my order. I have yet to receive a response back from anyone over there. How long did it take for you to get your seeds? Did you have any issues in trying to contact them? Thanks.

    • Hi Alex,

      Yes, I did order my seeds from Heirloom Acres. I ordered my seeds on Jan 12, and got them 3 weeks later. I haven’t had any trouble contacting them either. The one time I called, the line was busy, but I tried again a little later and got Thom himself. I know the later you order, the longer you might have to wait because stuff is back ordered. Keep trying to get a hold of somebody. Don’t worry, they’re probably really busy with spring orders 🙂 Good luck! I hope you get them soon.

  3. I am starting my first garden this year and am really appreciating your advice. Can you tell me how much of these seeds you ordered. I also have a family of 4 and have no idea how much to order. Thanks so much.

    • Hi Christina,

      As a beginner, I wasn’t sure how much I could handle right off the bat, so I ordered one packet of 50 seeds of each variety that I would be planting. I have some books that tell me how much I would need to plant of something per person though. Maybe I should do a post on it, hmmm…

  4. Thanks for the list. We don’t have space at our apartment to plant very much, so I’d better make sure what I plant is worth it!


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