What is an Heirloom? What is a Hybrid?

In the world of veggies, two words can tip emotional scales: hybrid and heirloom. Some gardeners staunchly favor one over the other. Many plant both. Learn the difference and decide for yourself. Bonnie Plants offers both hybrid and heirloom varieties. All our hybrids are non-GMO.

Hybrids »

A hybrid vegetable is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties or species, aiming to produce an offspring (hybrid) containing the best traits of the two parents.

A classic example is the Bonnie Original tomato developed in 1967. It offered (and still does) great taste and productivity along with improved disease resistance to increase your success in the garden.

In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favorable traits: dependability, lower care, early maturity, better yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, or disease resistance. Hybrid vegetables typically look like the veggies you’d find at a supermarket.

Some very strict gardeners will hint that a hybrid is taboo, inferring that it’s a genetically modified plant (GMO). That is incorrect. Cross-pollination is a natural process of crosses within the same plant species. In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve a combination of characteristics, like bigger size and better disease resistance, etc. The process of developing a hybrid typically requires many years.

GMOs may mix genes from other species. None of our plants are GMO.

Heirlooms »

Heirlooms come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by gardeners for a special trait. Heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they’re non-hybrid and pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. Heirlooms are usually pre-WWII varieties and they remain unchanged.

Many gardeners agree that most heirloom varieties boast greater flavor, especially among tomatoes. Bonnie’s Heirloom Tomato Varieties are clearly marked on the plant tags and trays.

While hybrid plants typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing, heirloom vegetables produce a “mixed bag” harvest. The harvest may come in less predictably, and produce size can vary greatly even on the same plant.

Heirlooms typically bear a tale that’s as tasty as the produce. The Amish heirloom tomato Brandywine yields fruit with an unbeatable flavor in shades reminiscent of a glass of Cabernet. Arkansas Traveler tomato is a Southern favorite, originating in Northwest Arkansas prior to 1900 and finding its way across the South to North Carolina. Resistant to cracking and disease, this beauty yields delicious tomatoes under Southern summer conditions: high heat, high humidity, and drought.

What is right for me?

Growing both heirloom and hybrid vegetables ensures you’ll have a reliable, flavorful harvest that offers the best of both worlds. Choose hybrids for their improved productivity and performance. Add a few heirloom plants for variety and flavorful additions to family mealtime.

Posted in: Growing Basics