Growing Organic Heirloom Vegetables
Growing organic is not a new concept. Farmers have been doing it for centuries. Before WWII, there were no such things as chemical fertilizers, or insecticides.
After WWII, there was a surplus of chemicals that they had used during the war, and needed a way to use them.
Someone had the bright idea of using them as insecticides. Remember, these chemicals were originally meant to kill. They were not meant to be used in gardens across the U.S.
Before WWII, farmers for centuries used the rotation method as one way to stave off disease. By rotating crops each year or so, it helped cut down on diseases in the soils, and in the crops. Each crop has a different benefit to the soil. For example, beans and clover add nitrogen to the soil.
Heirloom vegetables are also known as old fashioned or vintage vegetables. They are vegetables grown from seeds that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Heirloom varieties are open pollinated, which means they are pollinated by insects or the wind, and will produce “true” the following season if seeds are saved. True means that the offspring will be the same as the parent.
Hybrids came into existence in part as the U.S. grew. A hybrid is an intentional cross between two varieties to capture the best characteristics of the two different varieties. If a hybrid plant is allowed to open pollinate, and the seed saved, the offspring will bear little resemblance to the parent plant. Because of this characteristic, varieties can be patented by seed companies, and gardeners have to buy new seed every year instead of saving their own.
As the country grew after WW II, consumers wanted bigger and better. Farmers and growers needed a way to be able to transport their produce to a further distance, while still remaining fresh, and not bruised or have them rot.
Although, the consumers may have gotten bigger, they did not necessarily get better. The new hybrid produce didn’t have as much flavor, some nutrients got lost, and you could no longer seed save for the next year’s crop. People didn’t seem to care, as it was more convenient. Buying from local farms was starting to wane, and these farmers had to choose between going under or joining the band wagon. Most joined in and grew hybrids.
While hybrids became the norm in grocery stores across America, vegetables that we now know as heirlooms were becoming a thing of the past. It is now seeing a come back across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
By planting heirloom veggies and saving the seed you will be helping to safeguard the genetic pool of our vegetables of old—and hence the food supply of our future generations.