One of the most common questions we get is, “What is the difference between hybrid and heirloom seeds and how can I know what I am getting?” First of all, you want the heirloom seeds. Hybrid seeds cannot be depended on to produce seed that will produce offspring very similar to the parent plant. Hybrids generally claim that they are a hybrid. They are often labeled F1. Here is an article from the University of Illinois that explains
“As the name implies, heirloom seeds are carried down from generation to generation, similar to handing down a desired antique from generation to generation,” said Matt Kostelnick. “However, what is so special about this? Isn't that what a seed company can do? In short, yes. But the full answer to this question is a little more complicated.”
Gardeners are familiar with “hybrid seed” which is also called “F₁” or “F₁ Hybrid Seed.” All are referring to the same thing. Hybrid seed is essentially the opposite of heirloom seed. Hybrid seed i
s seed that is a cross between two distinctly different parents that have been inbred over numerous generations.
Why do plant breeders inbred? Primarily because they want to be able to produce reliable offspring that contain certain desirable traits. Essentially, the breeders are breeding plants to produce certain desirable characteristics. For example, in large-scale vegetable production, growers prefer hybrid seed because they know the seed is reliable (they will get a uniform crop of vegetables with certain desirable characteristics). Those desirable characteristics might include things like: disease resistance, early fruit development, larger fruits, rounder fruits, and tougher skins on tomatoes for easier harvesting, handling, shipping and longer storage and so on. With flowers, it might include larger flower blooms, “double” blooms, blooms with bright, flashy colors, pizzazz, etc.
“If hybrid seed has all of these desired and dependable characteristics, are there any downsides to hybrid seed,” he said. “In other words, what is the advantage to heirloom seed, especially for the home gardener?
We suggest you get your heirloom seeds now, while you still can. Down to Earth Seeds package seed to last 50 years in the freezer. Only especially dried and packaged seed can be frozen without damage.