Heirloom Varieties and One Little Question…
The definition of heirloom in terms of plant varieties is debated. Often, a fruit, veggie or flower plant variety that has been grown unchanged for at least 50 years is defined as a heirloom variety. Some consider 100 years the criteria. Some suggest varieties prior to commercial hybridization began, in the early 1950’s. Heirlooms are open pollinated varieties, but not all open pollinated varieties are heirloom. Regardless, by nature, many of these varieties are tried and true and valued for their traits.
It is said that many heirloom varieties either have become extinct or are at risk of extinction. Monocropping and the mechanization that is common in today’s agriculture, and shipping considerations can take a large part of the responsibility for this. Many hybrid varieties that were bred for commercial production lack the flavor and nutrition of our old favorites.
Fortunately, there has been an increasing interest in growing and preserving this heritage.
As many know, I am a great supporter of growing heirloom varieties. More importantly, the best heirloom varieties. Since there are so many out there, my focus is on trialing and determining which varieties have the qualities I want (color, taste, production, disease resistance, etc), and thrive in the climate I garden in (short season, zone 2b).
As more and more people become interested in heirloom varieties, the demand grows and with it the supply. Please take a second and cast your vote!