Heirloom Tomatoes

Defining Times for Heirloom Vegetable Varieties

April 2, 2010

One of those gardeners and fellow bloggers that I’ve had the pleasure to correspond with is Tee from over at the Veggie Gardener. Today Tee joins us with a guest post on the importance of growing heirloom varieties:

The last several years have seen a dramatic rise in the popularity of home vegetable gardening. According to the National Gardening Association, home vegetable gardening rose 23% in 2009 and is projected to rise another 28% in 2010.

This wave of popularity in vegetable gardening has been partly due to an increased interest in healthier foods. A great way to ensure that you are growing and eating healthier foods is by growing heirloom vegetables using proven organic methods.

What Classifies a Vegetable as an Heirloom?

Simply put, a vegetable is classified as an heirloom if it is open-pollinated and has been cultivated for over 50 years. Heirloom seeds have typically been passed down by families from generation to generation. These are the same seeds our ancestors used to grow their vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

Open-pollinated simply means the plant is naturally pollinated by insects, wind, mammals, or birds. The offspring of an open-pollinated vegetable will grow true to form. In other words, the plant and fruit grown from open-pollinated seed will have the exact same characteristics as the plant the seed comes from.

Why Is It Important To Grow Heirloom Vegetables?

As more and more corporations in the food industry, such as Monsanto and Dow, steadily attempt to control seed supplies, it becomes much more important that we strive to grow heirloom varieties in our gardens. Growing heirloom vegetables in your garden can offer many advantages over growing hybrid or genetically modified varieties of the same crops.

Heirlooms Promote Plant Diversity

Growing heirloom vegetables in your garden, and saving the seeds yourself, helps protect those plants from becoming lost forever. Promoting the diversity of vegetable plants will ensure your children, and grand children, will be able to carry on our gardening traditions and those of our ancestors.

Growing Heirlooms Help Protect the Food Supply

The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s was mostly caused by an unprotected food supply. There were only a couple different potato varieties grown in Ireland during this time. When blights and other disease wiped out the entire crop of potatoes the great famine ensued. This should be a great lesson in the significance of protecting the food supply by encouraging a diverse selection of crops.

Heirloom Varieties Have Outstanding Flavor

It is widely understood between most growers that heirloom varieties generally provide a rich and flavorful vegetable when compared to similar hybrid varieties. Take one bite from a hybrid Celebrity tomato, then bite into a Brandywine heirloom tomato and you will completely understand the difference. The heirloom tomato will have a sweeter aroma, a robust flavor and leave you begging for more.

Cherishing Heirlooms Preserves Our Heritage and Culture

By allowing heirloom seeds to be literally wiped out by corporate control and greed, we allow a part of our history and heritage to be destroyed. It is very important to preserve heirloom seeds so future generations can continue to enjoy these gems just as we enjoy them today.

At Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, there are vegetable varieties still grown in his vegetable garden today that he grew himself almost two hundred years ago. Talk about vital history!

Grow A Few Heirloom Vegetables in Your Garden This Year

While doing your garden planning and sowing this year make sure to grow a few heirloom varieties in your vegetable garden. There are many great suppliers of heirloom seeds available online today, such as Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Sow a few heirloom vegetables this year, save the seeds, and share some with family, friends, and neighbors.

Growing a few heirlooms will help provide healthier, nutritional foods for your family, protect the overall food supply, promote plant diversity, and help to preserve our history. Grow heirlooms and you will have a vegetable garden full of the best tasting vegetables you can find!

Tee Riddle is an avid vegetable gardener that is obsessed with growing fresh, organic vegetables. He even attempted to grow butter beans in the bed of his truck while living in an apartment. You can read more about his vegetable garden on his blog, Veggie Gardener.

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