Heirloom plants are vegetables, flowers, and fruits that are grown from seeds passed down through the generations and are open pollinated, meaning they rely on natural pollination from insects and wind. They generally are considered high quality, more flavorful and easy to grow. Heirloom plants are grown on a small scale using traditional techniques as opposed to being grown in large commercial nurseries. They have unique colors, textures, and tastes not found in factory-farmed industrial produce.
Heirloom seeds are raised from seeds that are at least 50 years old (there is controversy about how old an heirloom seed has to be) and growers save the seeds of their best plants for the most vigorous, disease resistant, flavorful, or beautiful.
Why are heirloom plants so important? Genetic diversity is essential to protecting our food supply. If we only grow a few varieties of crops, disease could wipe them all out.
Heirloom tomatoes are unbeatable in flavor and have gotten popular in the last few years. There are hundreds of varieties such as Brandywine, Green Grape, Green Zebra and Lillian’s Yellow. Kentucky Blue green beans, Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers and Moon and Shine watermelons are a few of the top picks among other heirloom plants.
There are several seed catalogs like Abundant Life, which specialize in heirlooms or you can purchase them on-line at heirloomseed.com. Happily, farmer’s markets also sell heirloom vegetables and fruits, some supermarkets are starting to carry them. Try them – you won’t believe the difference!