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Heirlooms Versus Hybrids—Which Are Best for You?

There’s been a significant trend in recent years by home gardeners to “return to their roots” when placing their seed orders to search for the time-tested, flavorful and high-yielding varieties, many of which were popular prior to 1950, and some even as far back as the 1800s. These “heirloom” or “heritage” varieties were grown by our family forefathers, their seeds selected and saved and passed down from generation to generation.

But another group of gardeners appears to be just as focused on purchasing and growing the latest of our modern hybrids, which feature in-bred special desired traits, such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, early maturity dates, etc. However, hybrid seeds are not easily saved and planted the next season, as generally only a small portion of saved hybrid seeds will germinate true to variety. The two very different dedicated gardening groups each defend their personal reasons for their seeds of choice, but amidst the current concern about the safety of genetically-modified seeds, there has been an even stronger attention shift to “heirloom varieties.” We offer hundreds of these old favorites, which you will find within virtually each species of seed we sell.

It’s amusing that Heirloom Vegetables are a current craze in home gardening, yet no one knows what heirloom vegetables are! One of the truest definitions is that an heirloom is a variety that has been selected, re-selected and handed down from one family member to another for many generations. Another definition places a date point on the variety. Some purists say a variety must be at least a hundred years old to be a true heirloom, while less strict experts state that an heirloom must have originated before 1951, the year that marked the widespread introduction of hybrid varieties to home gardeners.

Without a doubt, one of the most desired of all the Heirloom Vegetables is ‘Pink Brandywine Heirloom’ Tomato, 90 days to maturity from seeding. The Amish, long considered authorities on heirlooms, first grew Brandywine in 1885. Now, over 125 years later, these prized varieties, rich yet mild, are still considered the best-flavored tomatoes available. From vigorous, indeterminate vines with potato-leafed foliage, come heavy yields of huge, firm-fleshed fruits weighing up to 1-1/2 pounds. We offer the original pinkish-red strain grown since the 1870s.

Hybrid Vegetable lovers are more adventuresome gardeners, always wanting to try something new, better or different. And remember, our hybrid variety seeds are all guaranteed to be GMO-Free, just like our Heirlooms. So we would recommend that you try both Heirloom and Hybrid varieties for more diverse plantings for more successful yield results, even under adverse growing conditions, such as heat and drought. Diversity also offers a variety of flavors, shapes and even colors for plating those gourmet-chef-like dishes, except that you grow and prepare them yourself right at home.

For an ultra-modern Hybrid Vegetable, you might choose our ‘Sweet Seedless Hybrid VFNT’ Tomato, which boasts a special trait that could likely prove to be a health benefit to some of us veteran gardeners. An estimated 30 to 50% of Americans over 60 have some symptoms of diverticulosis, a digestive condition made worse by eating seeds and nuts. But “Sweet Seedless” produces virtually no seeds to upset the digestive tract, making it the first tomato that can be enjoyed by almost anyone! Yet this breakthrough offers topnotch “real tomato” flavor – the perfect balance between acids and sugars found in large, round, deep red fruits that weigh about 8 to 10 ounces each. Flesh is meaty and firm, perfect for slicing for a tasty sandwich. This indeterminate hybrid is about 70 days to maturity, with superior disease resistance that ensures huge yields and wide adaptability.

Gardeners usually think of heirlooms in terms of their favorite vegetable varieties, but flower seeds also are available as centuries-old heirlooms or the latest hybrids. With our major move into Flower Seeds for Spring 2017, this next article provides ample reason why you should plant flower seeds along with your veggies!

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