On our homestead we try to live as natural as possible, and that means we grow our vegetables as natural as possible and raise our animals as naturally as possible. We choose breeds and varieties that meet our needs for this natural lifestyle. We also grow things naturally, not in an artificial way at all. We do grow a variety of heirloom vegetables, especially tomatoes. But that doesn’t mean you will only find heirloom varieties in our farm stand because we know some like certain varieties, rather they are heirloom or not.
Lets talk a little about what that all means.
Heirloom and hybrid, what’s the difference?
Hybrid: this is the result of a crossing by humans of two distinct varieties through cross-pollination. The cross-pollination occurs after years of cross pollinating two different by related plants, which eventually creates a new variety. With new knowledge, it doesn’t always take a lot of years, like it may have taken farmers back in the early years. This cross pollination to make a hybrid variety is beneficial to a farmer in some ways and is a natural way of creating plants. Hybrid seeds will not remain true-to-type which means gardeners must purchase new seeds every year. By crossing the seeds the gardener can receive a higher yield, or plants that are resistant to certain diseases or pests. Disadvantages are also in hybrid varieties though. Hybrid varieties today keep seed companies in business, and make homesteaders less self-reliant upon being able to grow a garden year after year without buying new seeds. Some of these varieties also require chemicals in order for them to be able to grow.
Heirloom: these are open-pollinated plants that date back at least 50 years. These seeds can be saved and used year after year. They are old-time varieties that can be fun with different colors and looks. They have stood the test of time.
Open-pollinated: this means that pollination occurs naturally, by insects, wind, birds and the seed produced remains true-to-type, meaning that the seed will produce identically to the plant from which they came.
GMO seed varieties: Created in a lab using high-tech and lots of science techniques like gene-splicing. This is not a natural way of producing a new variety of plants. Often times the cross of two completely different realms to get the end result that they want from the plant, such as a plant crossed with a bacteria to be pest resistant. A lot of times pesticides are associated with GMO seeds. These seeds have been genetically modified!
Some people think that GMO is the same as hybrid. And it isn’t! That’s why I included it in the definitions. We do not use GMO for our chicken feed or for our vegetable/crop varieties.
Some examples include:
• Better Boy
• Big Beef
• Early Girl
• Super Sweet 100
• Pink Girl
• Chocolate Cherry
• Cherokee Purple
• Red Currant
• Ferris Wheel
• Big Rainbow
• Wild Cherry
We let our tomatoes naturally ripen on the vine. Sure, it takes a long time and the right amount of sunshine and sometimes a few tomatoes are lost because they rot before they ripen, but this gives them a better taste in our opinions as well as many of our customers. Sometimes larger farmers and commercial farmers will pick green tomatoes and artificially change their color to red by moderating their storage temperature and lighting. Green tomatoes are picked so they can make it to a store without going bad or getting crushed through transportation. Vine ripened tomatoes get sunshine, which we think makes the difference in the taste.
By not picking our tomatoes when they are green, they are softer and do not have a hard skin on them. They have a ripened, softened skin to them, which makes them even more delicious in our opinions. We do pick some green tomatoes for our customers who like fried green tomatoes and salsas.
We have a customer who is a truck driver; he said he drove through a tunnel underground that was growing vegetables for major chain stores. These vegetables are not receiving natural sunlight, they are receiving artificial lights.
What would you prefer: vegetables grown with natural sunlight outside in the ground, or vegetables grown underground in tunnels with artificial lights?
Heirloom tomatoes are also known for their sweeter tastes as well as their fun colors. After all, they have been around for about 50 years, they have to be favorites amongst everyone!
Come try some heirloom tomatoes, some vine ripened tomatoes, at our farm stand and see the differences for yourself!