Are heirloom seeds better than organic?

In general terms, relics have superior taste, quality and strength compared to all other types of seeds. Most of the time, heirloom seeds have been grown under organic conditions, although this is not always the case. Heirloom refers to the inheritance of the plant. With seed-grown plants, only open-pollinated varieties are considered relics.

Unlike hybrids, open-pollinated seeds reproduce “true to type”, meaning that the offspring will show the same characteristics as the parent plant and the seeds can be saved from season to season. Seeds are generally considered relics if they were introduced to the crop at least 40 years before the current date, although some experts consider seeds to be relics only if they were introduced before World War II. So what's the difference between organic and traditional seeds? Organic seeds are USDA-certified, non-GMO seeds that come from plants grown only with natural fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. Can be hybrid or open pollinated.

Heirloom seeds are always open-pollinated and come from plant varieties that are at least 50 years old. They can also be organic and are generally non-GMO. You can grow organic heirloom seeds if you want, the term organic only refers to how the seeds are grown and produced. Organic seeds must be grown in accordance with organic standards established by the USDA National Organic Program.

They must be grown in certified organic soil and can only use fertilizers and pest controls allowed by organic regulation. If you want to buy organic heirloom seeds, check the USDA organic symbol label. Organic seeds are harvested from certified organic crops. The seeds can be a hybrid or heirloom variety.

Organic Farmers Must Look for Organic Seeds to Qualify for USDA Organic Certification. If they can't find organic vegetable seeds or organic herb seeds, they are allowed to use conventional, untreated seeds. In short, you can buy conventional seeds and grow them organically (or it's not up to you). Your homegrown produce will probably still be better than anything you can buy at the grocery store.

However, one drawback to conventional seeds is that you can't store the seeds of your plants. Because plants are the result of hybridization, the seeds will be sterile or produce a totally different plant than the plant from which you took the seed. To ensure the highest quality nutrition and flavor and to create a seed bank, you'll need to look for heirloom seeds that are a little more expensive. Hybrid seed cannot be saved, as seed from the first generation of hybrid plants does not reliably produce true copies.

So if you want to grow that strain at another time, you'll need to buy new seeds instead of growing the seeds you saved from that plant. Hybrid seeds are created by crossing two selected varieties, which sometimes results in vigorous plants that outperform relics. All heirloom seeds are non-GMO (meaning genetically modified organisms, or plants whose DNA has been artificially changed, often with genes from unrelated species that they could not naturally cross with). Genetic engineering focuses primarily on cash crops such as cotton, corn, and soybeans, making it incredibly easy to avoid when buying seeds (in fact, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for you to find GM seeds for most of the vegetables in your garden).

Most seed companies will have the option to buy organic seeds, although they are more expensive than traditional or conventional seeds. We also stock as many traditional and open-pollinated seeds as possible, to help farmers and gardeners continue to grow for generations to come. So, while seed companies don't lie when they advertise their herb and vegetable seeds as “non-GMO seeds,” the truth is that it's not something you should worry too much about, since they're actually only sold to large commercial farmers. Heirloom seeds are always open pollinated (see open pollination description earlier in the article).

Just remember that you can't save seeds forever, as they must eventually be grown and you can harvest more seeds from plants for later years. Organic seeds are seeds that have undergone the rigorous organic certification process. . .

Erika Shipley
Erika Shipley

Subtly charming beer nerd. Extreme internet specialist. Devoted travel junkie. Proud coffee maven. Friendly problem solver.