Breaking Down Those Tricky Terms
As we get into planting season (and seed starting season), certain phrases start popping up again. Hybrid, heirloom, organic… all of which are surrounded in an air of confusion. It’s not that the terms themselves are particularly difficult to understand – it’s just that they are used, and misused, in so many places that their true definitions become muddled.
Hybrid plants are created through the intentional selection of a parent plant for a certain quality. Double Daffs, for example, are a daffodil hybrid containing two rows of petals. Once a mutation in the genetic code, the double petal trait is now grown and sold in greenhouses across North America.
Heirloom seeds are produced by open-pollinated plants. That is, plants that produce seeds that are not true clones but are a combination of the male and female traits (like you are of your parents). The offspring and this new set of DNA are less susceptible to mono-crop failures, diseases, and pest attacks.
Organic food and seeds are those that have not been treated with chemicals other than those considered to be ‘organic’. Organic is NOT pesticide free. Often times, organic farmers will opt for a combination of organic pesticides and mechanical methods to treat their fields.
So when you choose your seeds and garden plants this year, look for hybrids that are less susceptible to certain diseases – like tomatoes with a resistance to early and late blights. And scope out heirlooms whose quality and taste can never be matched.