Heirloom vs Hybrid Produce

by Sarah Gardening, VideosComments: 24

heirloom vs hybrid tomatoes

Heirloom vs hybrid produce?  Hopefully, you understand how to recognize the difference because it makes a big difference to the nutrition you’re getting!

Yesterday at our buying club pickup, a local farmer dropped by to display and sell his beautiful selection of organic produce.

Not just any old organic produce, however.

Organic heirloom produce.

Most folks don’t realize that the organic produce at WalMart, Whole Foods, or even the local healthfood store is almost exclusively hybrid vegetables.  Once in awhile you will see some heirloom veggies at the healthfood store, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Now, I have nothing against organic produce from hybrid seeds.  Hybrid is not to be confused with GMO, by the way.

If you’re going to pay the premium for organic, however, you might as well go for the best tasting produce.  This will almost always be the heirloom varieties and not the modern hybrids at the store.

George DeVault, executive director of Seed Savers Exchange, the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom and other rare seeds says:

“A lot of the breeding programs for modern hybrids have sacrificed taste and nutrition.  The standard Florida tomato is a good example. Instead of old-time juicy tangy tomatoes, it tastes like cardboard. It was bred to be picked green and gas-ripened because that’s what was needed for commercial growing and shipping.”

Turns out that better taste means more nutritious too.  We as consumers are paying a  big price for the push by commercial growers for the higher yields and easier shipping (uniform size and ripening) provided by hybrid strains, particularly for organic produce.

I can tell you that organic produce from the store doesn’t taste nearly as good as it did 20 years ago which tells me that nutrition is poor. If you’ve ever used a refractometer to test the nutrient density of produce, you know that better taste means higher nutrition, a contest which heirloom veggies easily win compared with hybrids.

In this video below, I demonstrate the difference between a typical organic store tomato and two heirloom varieties from a local organic farmer.

Seeing is believing!  Find a local produce farmer that grows heirloom varieties in rich soil and start enjoying the superior taste and nutrition for yourself.  Supporting the production of heirloom varieties in your local community also fosters independence for our farmers as heirloom vegetables are open pollinated which means the seed can be saved from year to year – saving the farmers an unnecessary expenditure each growing season.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Sources and More Information

Industrial Farming is Giving Us Less Nutritious Food

Heirloom Vegetables: Six Advantages Compared with Hybrids

How are Hybrid and Open Pollinated Vegetables Different?

4 Steps to Keep Monsanto OUT of Your Garden

The Hydroponic Invasion of USDA Organic

Our New Organic Garden Box and Rain Barrel Irrigation System

Why I Avoid Organic Hydroponics

Picture Credit

Comments (24)

  • Amy

    Thanks for the knowledge. I always look for good heirlooms at the local farmers market. I’ve been eating them since I was 10. I still can’t get enough of them!

    June 9th, 2013 8:16 pm Reply
  • Jillian

    Thank you for this informative video! :) So which is better: Heirloom that has been sprayed for bugs, or organic hybridized??? Thanks!

    June 7th, 2013 4:19 pm Reply
  • Heather

    Heirloom tomatoes are wonderful but it is the variety of the tomato that determines its color, taste, etc. Some are green when ripe, some orange, some yellow, some pink, some dark red or black. It’s all the variety. There are also some delicious hybrid tomatoes, Sungold comes to mind. It is, bar none, the most delicious cherry tomato you will ever taste. You won’t find it in a store, you have to grow your own. There are many hybrids for the home gardener and the taste is out of this world. I grow mostly Heirlooms because I like that they are open pollinated, but there are some excellent hybrids that taste amazing and some Heirlooms that taste like nothing. I think what you really mean is that it’s the insipid hybrids, bred just for transport and shelf life, that are to be avoided. Most of those you won’t find in seed catalogues. If you have a balcony or a deck, you can grow amazing tomatoes. Just use pots.

    June 6th, 2013 9:58 pm Reply
  • felicia

    am i correct to assume that not all heirloom tomatoes (or any vegetables/fruits) are organic??

    is it “safer” to eat them than the organic hybrid ones?

    June 6th, 2013 4:09 pm Reply
  • Joel Blanchard

    I ate what was quite possibly the best tasting tomato I’d ever had 2 days ago. It was a vine-ripened heirloom yellow tomato that I grew organically in my backyard and put in the refrigerator overnight to chill it. A little himalayan sea salt on it and mmmm !

    In the spirit of love and giving I will mail some heirloom yellow tomato seeds to you for free! Just email your mailing address to me at JoelBlanchard2012@yahoo.com.

    June 6th, 2013 2:11 pm Reply
  • ChurnYourOwn

    I couldn’t agree with you more Sarah. Not that we need yet another reason to seek out heirloom varieties, but do you know about Mutation Breeding? It’s a common practice, which I’ve heard is also used in organic production, in which seeds are exposed to chemicals or radiation in order to generate mutants with desirable traits to be bred with other cultivars. Health effects have not been adequately tested and I personally would rather avoid them. Sticking to heirloom varieties of foods is one way to do this.

    June 6th, 2013 1:11 pm Reply
  • Betty-Jean Johnson Conner via Facebook

    We grow only heirloom vegetables using organic practices.

    June 6th, 2013 12:27 pm Reply
  • Karen

    Have you seen the new Walmart commercial where they switch farmer’s market fruits and veggies with Walmart fruits and veggies? Do they really believe that people go to farmer’s market to get more symmetrical, jumbo fruits? I guess it’s to convince the people who don’t actually go to Farmer’s Markets that they can be confident that their food is just as good.

    June 6th, 2013 11:54 am Reply
  • DRK

    Hobby gardeners dedicated to chemical free heirloom produce is your best, and cheapest source. Get to know, and support your neighbors that are dedicated to producing good healthy vegetables, dairy, meat, and eggs on as small scale.

    June 6th, 2013 11:25 am Reply
  • Dorsey Clark

    I don’t know if these are organic or not but Publix sells the “Ugly Ripe” Tomato which is grown in Plant City. Once I tasted one of these, that is all I have purchased as it is just like you said….. the hybrids …. even organic…..taste like cardboard water.
    FYI I did save the seeds and am growing them myself this year and they are going crazy. Last count I had 45 growing out there on 5 plants and there are many more flowers.

    June 6th, 2013 11:21 am Reply
  • Rick

    This is SO true! I don’t like the taste of tomatoes… just tomatoes… but when we purchased heirloom organic tomatoes…. WOW I could eat them like an apple!

    June 6th, 2013 10:52 am Reply
  • Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    Sarah, I love heirloom tomatoes but have grown them myself. You’ve inspired me – my next planting will be heirlooms!

    June 6th, 2013 9:44 am Reply
  • Carol Whelan via Facebook

    How do you find these farmers? I live in the Trinity Fl. area and there aren’t any farms around here. I would be willing to travel to them however.

    June 6th, 2013 9:38 am Reply
  • Marie Bower

    Great video! Once you’ve tasted a locally grown good organic heirloom tomato, you’ll never go back to the hybrid. Heirlooms have been bred for taste, resistance to disease and quantity output. Hybrids (organic or not) have been bred for beauty, shelf-life and transportability. The result is mush.

    I’ve been growing brandywine heirlooms in my garden for years – saving seed each year. In this way, my tomatoes are now adapted to my soil and climate conditions. Ugly- maybe for some. It’s fun to watch my guests’ eyes pop out when they taste one. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    June 5th, 2013 7:06 pm Reply
  • D.Hollis

    Sarah ~ What is your opinion about purchasing heirloom seeds from a brochure? I currently have tomatoes I’m growing started from seeds advertised as heirloom.

    June 5th, 2013 3:13 pm Reply
  • D.Hollis

    Sarah ~ What do you think about growing vegetables from brochure purchased heirloom seeds? I currently have tomato plants I am growing in my veggie garden.

    June 5th, 2013 3:05 pm Reply
  • Cristina Marzullo via Facebook

    knowledge is crucial these days especially when it comes to what produce and foods we are consuming…why pay $$$ for organic hybrid produce when you can get heirloom from your local farmers…

    June 5th, 2013 1:13 pm Reply
  • Robin Ann Imhof via Facebook

    I think most people DO know that the organic produce is quite often a hybrid. It is exceptional to find organic produce that is also an heirloom or non-hybrid.

    June 5th, 2013 12:56 pm Reply
  • Sarah @ Politically Incorrect Health

    I completely agree! Heirloom food tastes so much better! It is too bad it is more expensive. I have noticed it is really hard to find a good tasting tomato nowadays.

    June 5th, 2013 12:31 pm Reply
  • Lisa Pittman Bowman via Facebook

    They also cost a lot more! Our food budget is already astronomical.

    June 5th, 2013 12:13 pm Reply
    • Saeriu

      You’re right, they’re more expensive. But, you can buy an heirloom tomato plant for the cost of 1-2 tomatoes with the productivity of giving you 30lbs of tomatoes. (A packet of seeds is even far less cost.) If you don’t have room for a garden, one tomato plant can easily be planted in a large pot.

      June 7th, 2013 9:25 am Reply
  • Laura Lawson Gambrel via Facebook

    Do you have suggestions on an organic fertilizer for my veggies?? Theyre doing okay but I’d love to up the output. :-)

    June 5th, 2013 11:50 am Reply
    • DRK

      Composted manure is as good as anything. Pay attention as you drive around your neighborhood, where you see horses you will find horse manure. This manure can often times be had for the asking. If you like to fish composted fish is also good.

      June 6th, 2013 10:46 am Reply
  • Stanley Fishman

    Sarah, I could not agree more. The heirloom varieties taste so much better!

    Breeding plants for shelf life and appearance instead of taste and nutrition is one of the worst mistakes our culture ever made.

    June 5th, 2013 11:28 am Reply

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