Ever wanted to know the difference between organic, heirloom, and hybrid? Seed companies have started marketing hybrid organic seeds. I thought to myself how is that possible? Then the more I thought about it, some one has an incredible marketing team! I need them for my businesses! They’re taking a hybrid seed and growing it organically so they can technically say it’s an “organic hybrid.” Brilliant! Except your technically being fooled. So for all your gardeners, shoppers, farmers market wanderers, and the curious. Here is your mini guide to knowing the difference.
Heirloom- The seed has been saved for a period of years, preserved, and then passed down. Heirloom seeds have been grown from earlier periods in history, usually before World War II. After 1951, hybrid seeds were introduced into commercial seed trade. Heirloom seeds have to be open-pollinated which means they can not be cross pollinated by insects, birds, wind, or other natural mechanisms. Growing plants must be maintained in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse or isolated field to keep them from being cross pollinated.
Hybrid: The seed can be made artificially by man or naturally cross pollinated by the wind, animals, and insects. Most times hybrid seeds are designed to improve characteristics of the plant including a better yield or disease resistance. Hybrid seeds are more appealing to the commercial and mass agriculture to help feed the world of over 7 billion people. Hybrids are categorized by generations, such as F1, meaning the first generation from crossing 2 parents varieties in the same species.
Organic: A seed that is grown without using any synthetic chemicals, drugs, or hormones. For products to be sold as “organic” they must be certified by one of the many certifying agencies. An organic seed must come from a growing organic plant.
Hope this guide helps the next time you choose those perfectly red ripe tomatoes at the farmers markets or when you’re flipping through all those beautiful, glossy seed catalogs this fall or early next spring as you plan your garden.