I’ve spent a lot of time talking about seeds starting but not a lot of time talking about types of seeds. And this post isn’t really going to be much about that. If you want to know the differences there are a lot of places to go. Baker Creek has a decent discussion on their web site, Margaret Roach talks a good bit about it on her blog.
As a general rule, I usually only grow heirloom vegetables myself (again, if you want more of an explanation, I talked about that awhile back here).
But sometimes, there are legitimate reasons to grow hybrid vegetables (or flowers or other things, but this post will be about vegetables because that’s primarily what I grow from seed now) from seed.
As always, it’s all about choice. Seeds give you that choice. And hybrid seeds offer you choices that heirlooms can’t.
For one thing–and this is extremely important–they can build in protection against disease. Now for the most part when we’re talking hybrids, what are we talking about? We are not talking about the “parade of horribles” or “frankenfish” or any of the sorts of things you read in the media about genetic manipulation.
What we are talking about on a commercial-scale is what’s been going on in nature–and in backyards–for centuries. One plant cross-pollinates with another plant and–whammo–you have a hybrid of the two. If you have a human intervening somehow, you have hybridization. It’s just that simple.
Now obviously there are a lot of reasons not to grow hybrids. If you like to save your own seeds, you don’t want to grow hybrid plants because the next year’s crop won’t come “true” from seed.
But there are some great reasons to grow hybrids as well, disease resistance being the primary one. Cool new varieties are the other. I grew the ‘Indigo’ tomato (the one that turns purple when ripe) a few years back. Its color meant is had more anthocyanins, supposedly a healthy thing for you. I don’t know about that–I just know it didn’t make it into my “tastes good enough to grow a second year” rotation.
This year the cool new variety is ‘Kalettes,’ available from Johnny’s Select Seeds. It’s a cross between brussel sprouts and kale. It looks like a cool new crop and I’m sure it would be very tasty. I just know whenever I crow cole crops I have such an aphid problem it’s not worth it. So no ‘Kalettes’ for me! If anyone tries it, let me know.
So just because something is a hybrid, don’t automatically discount it. It doesn’t mean it’s part of that huge GMO problem. It just means that folks, working under controlled conditions, did some breeding work. And whatever they created may or may not be better for your garden. You’ll have to try it to know for sure.