Sunday, 15 September 2013

What does HEIRLOOM mean?

The first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the term heirloom is tomato.  But recently I started to wonder: What exactly is an heirloom tomato?  It sounds like it's a really old tomato from your great great grandmother ...
... well actually it kind of is, but not in a pin cushion way.

Heirloom plants (there are many, not just tomatoes) are grown from seeds that have been passed on for generations.  Most importantly, these seeds have not been modified.  Heirloom seeds are grown using traditional gardening techniques, and relying on a process called open pollination.

Over time farmers save the seeds of their best plants - the ones that are the most vigorous, disease resistant, and flavorful. They then save the seeds from these plants and use them again the following year. This careful selection process ensures that only the best plants available are grown.

Why is HEIRLOOM important?
  • superior taste
  • promotes bio-diversity
  • utilizes eco-friendly and sustainable farming methods
  • not genetically modified (non GMO)
  • seeds are hand cultivated over the years to ensure resistance to local diseases, pests, and weather extremes, which yields heartier crops with less pesticides
  • supports family owned small farms
And now for the question on everyone's mind:

Is HEIRLOOM the same thing as ORGANIC?

No, the two terms are not the same.  However they are very closely related and frequently appear together.  Organic has nothing to do with using seeds from 50 generations ago, however organic produce, like heirloom cannot be genetically modified.

Another important note is that farmers of heirloom plants can spray their crops with whatever they like.  Although farmers who are interested in heirloom seeds are probably the type of people who purposely would not use artificial pesticides and fertilizers. While browsing the farmer's markets you might find most of the heirloom plants out there are grown according to organic standards, but are not certified organic, (which is a costly and sometimes lengthy process).

Now is the time that the farmer's markets are stocked with heirloom tomatoes, so go get 'em and enjoy!    

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