Why grow heirloom vegetables? Well some would argue that growing heirlooms produces food with higher nutritional value, preserves plant diversity, protects our food supply from the control of corporate monopolies, provides produce that is proven safe for consumption, and that heirloom seeds will ultimately save humanity.
On the opposite side of the heirloom vegetable issue are the proponents of hybridization and biotechnology who assure us that genetically altered seeds are safe, the food supply in good hands, that the tinkering is necessary to increase productivity and disease resistance, and that the efforts towards hybridizing seeds and modifying food genes will ultimately save humanity.
Growing Heirloom Vegetables for Gardening Variety
I don’t have the answers or solutions to the problems, but I do believe that it’s important to protect and preserve the heirloom gardening treasures passed down to us. As to the question of why grow heirloom vegetables, my simple answer is to grow heirloom seeds because they’re fun, interesting, different, and provide a fascinating link to the past.
Heirloom vegetables are those old fashioned varieties that have been around long enough to have some history associated with them. The types that have been grown for half a century or longer. The same varieties that some of us enjoyed as children, and that our parents and grandparents planted in their gardens.
Heirloom Memories from the Past
Remember string beans that actually had strings, carrots that weren’t always orange colored, and apple varieties that actually had flavor and didn’t all taste the same? You can recapture a bit of that diversity and history by growing heirloom vegetables and fruits right in your own backyard.
I enjoy the novelty of growing antique fruits and heirloom vegetables that you can’t buy at the market, but that in many cases look and taste better than the common everyday varieties. I look for uniqueness when deciding what seeds to purchase and plant in the garden.
Heirlooms Deliver Color, Interest, and New Flavors
Rather than plain green beans, I’ll grow Royalty Purple Pod, or one of the colorful types of yard long beans. Instead of planting ordinary broccoli, why not opt for one of the attractive purple strains? How about a purple carrot? Did you think that eggplants were the only purple vegetable?
Speaking of eggplants you can grow heirloom varieties that sport shades of lavender, red, white, green, orange, pink, yellow, or even striped and streaked varieties. They also come in assorted shapes, from long and slender, to egg-shaped and their sizes range from “giant” to very tiny pea sized eggplants.
While heirloom tomatoes receive all the press, I’m more amazed by the quality and selection among the various heirloom lettuces that are available. One thing is certain, if you want to fully explore the world of heirloom vegetables, the place to start is with a good heirloom seed catalog and in your own backyard garden.
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