The Benefits of Heirloom and Open-Pollinated Seeds

If you’re in the market for seeds, you’ve likely come across the terms “heirloom,” “open-pollinated,” and “hybrid.” But what does it all mean? And what are the benefits of using heirloom and open-pollinated seeds over their hybrid counterparts?

We break it down for you below:

First, let’s look at the definitions of these terms.

Heirloom Seeds:

Just like family heirlooms, heirloom seeds have been passed from one generation to another. These seeds were saved and carefully grown because they are considered valuable due to their flavor, hardiness, productivity, resistance to disease, and/or adaptability. Some heirloom seeds have been passed down for hundreds of years! The general rule is that a seed has to be at least 50 years old to be considered an heirloom.

Open-Pollinated Seeds:

Some people use the term open-pollinated interchangeably with heirloom; however, these terms have different definitions. Open-pollinated is a type of seed that can be harvested from the plant, saved, and replanted so that the same variety of plant grows year after year. All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated. However, not all open-pollinated seeds are heirloom.

Hybrid Seeds:

These seeds are produced by cross-pollinating plants in an effort to produce more uniform crops with features that better serve mass-production. For example, hybrid seeds usually produce plants with disease resistance, favorable color, larger size and yield, early maturity, and overall hardiness.

Now that you understand what each term means, here are the benefits of using heirloom and open-pollinated seeds:

The seeds cost less.

Heirloom seeds tend to be less expensive to purchase compared to hybrid seeds. Also...

You can save them.

Heirloom and non-heirloom open-pollinated seeds can be saved and stored each year for future use. Hybrid seeds cannot. This is because the plants that grow from seeds saved from hybrid plants tend to be less vigorous, have smaller yields and blossoms, and are just less reliable overall compared to the parent plants.

They taste better.

Taste is obviously a subjective matter, but most gardeners and farmers agree that crops grown from heirloom seeds almost always taste better than those grown from hybrid seeds. This is because heirlooms have been selected and saved for generations (at least 50 years!) based on their taste.

They are more nutritious.

Heirloom fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than their hybrid counterparts because hybrid crops are bred with a high yield in mind, reducing the nutritional value of each individual plant.

They don’t ripen all at once.

Crops grown from heirloom seeds ripen gradually, providing you with a supply of fresh produce over a longer period of time. In contrast, hybrid seeds have been designed to ripen all at once (making it easier for farmers to harvest the crops), meaning that you will have a large supply of food all at once that may spoil before it can be eaten.

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