For more years than I care to admit I grew hybrid this and hybrid that and engaged in the competitive garden pastimes of How Big is Your tomato,huh? How many pounds yield did you get, huh? Out of how many square feet, buddy, huh? And then as I grew older so did the games and I left the ego-tomatoes behind and humility actually blossomed in my life. If you’re humble enough you’ll never be wrong. Think about that, buddy, huh.
My ignorance about plant breeding and hybrids is vast so I’ll share a few things I don’t know anything about but I know of:
1. F2 hybrids exist but I don’t know what they are.
2. Seeds planted from F1 hybrids may or may not produce fruit in the second year and all subsequent years.
3. Heirloom seeds do.
There is breeding going on with the hybrids and there is some kind of breeding going on with heirlooms, too, but apparently the processes are different from each other. I don’t care.
What I do care about is that when heirloom plants make seeds those seeds will produce the same plant year after year. When this year’s Amish paste tomatoes voluntarily sprout a seedling in next year’s garden those volunteers will make fruit.
For a long time, probably originating in my Dark Ages of Gardening I didn’t appreciate the value of cow power, a.k.a. manure, but I did have a compost.
And I harbored a suspicion that heirloom tomatoes were somehow inferior to the scientific superior breeding of hybrid tomatoes. The seed packets said wonderful things about the hybrids like “Bigger, Better, Meatier” but not much about the Amish paste except “Amish Paste.” It was as though the hybrids were the aristocrats and the Amish were the farmers, which their namesakes still are, and dang good farmers, too.
There you have a sterling example of the power of advertising, a.k.a. bull caca. Because . . . the heirlooms I’m growing are the most beautiful plants ever (huh, buddy?). In a totally mellow and non-competitive sense, the heirlooms growing in my garden can kick the butt of any hybrid you’ve ever heard of.
There’s more than one place to get heirloom seeds but my choice is Heritage Farms in Decorah, Iowa, home of the Seed Savers Exchange. These folks are working hard to preserve heirloom seeds for future generations, and for our use right now. You can order seeds from the 102 page catalog online or request a snail mail catalog.
If you join up you’ll receive the Seed Savers Yearbook with the names and contact info of seed savers all over the world, from Oregon to Oslo, who will sell seeds directly to you from their gardens. You can participate as a seller, too, if you like.
Speaking with the staff at Seed Savers and with individual sellers has been just like talking to a friendly neighbor. This is one of the coolest projects ever!
And that’s no bull caca, buddy.