Row by Row Episode 37: Hybrid vs. Heirloom Seeds – Which is Better?

Hybrid vs. Heirloom Seeds

On this week’s episode, the guys talk about vegetable seed and the differences between hybrid, heirloom and GMO seed. They first define heirloom seed as those that have been passed from generation to generation back in the early 1900s. Heirloom plants are open-pollinated, which means that seed can be saved and used for the next year’s crop. Some heirlooms are locally adapted to handle certain disease or pest pressures, which is certainly an advantage. Greg is a big believer in that heirloom corn has more disease, insect, and drought resistance than the hybrid varieties. One misconception about heirloom seed is that they have better taste or flavor than hybrid varieties. They say that the hybrid varieties were made for more production than taste, unlike the heirlooms. Greg and Travis believe that this is not 100% true. While the heirlooms may have a more unique shape, many of the modern-day hybrid seeds offer superb flavor comparable to that of heirlooms. Artificial and natural selection has two different meanings. Artificial selection or hybridizing means that humans have been involved and they had control in selecting things to happen. Natural selection has to do with nature taking its own course of action without any human interaction with it. They talk about hybrid seeds being the result of a cross-breeding between two related varieties. With hybrids, all of the first generation (F1) plants are the same. However, hybrid seeds cannot be reliably saved because the F2 individuals will not be true to variety. Hybrid seeds are great because they usually offer increased disease or pest-resistance and increased productivity. Hybrids allow you to get a certain selection done that have a particular outcome of the varieties. Finally, they discuss how GMO seeds are manufactured and address the ecological ramifications of seeds that allow the widespread use of non-selective herbicides. Genetically modified organism (GMO) is when you take a gene from an unrelated species or nonplant organism and isolate that gene based on the trait you are looking for. Then, you take that gene and insert it into the plant so that plant carries the same trait.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment, Travis has a head of Butter Crunch Lettuce that he harvested earlier that day. He mentions the butterhead lettuce is his favorite because it has such a smooth texture and rich flavor. Butterhead lettuce is great for making wraps with shrimp, chicken or pork. Greg has been harvesting some radishes out of his vegetable garden. If you do not like the radishes spiciness a lot of people like to saute them instead of eating them raw. He has a watermelon radish that has a little split which can be caused by too much water or they have grown too large. A tip when storing away radishes you can snap the leaves off of them and place them in a little bag and they will store in the refrigerator nicely. Travis has some Joi Choi Chinese Cabbage that grows nice little heads and has great taste.

Viewer Questions Segment

On the question and answer segment, the guys answer questions about knife sharpening and the cost of hybrid seeds. Greg mentions that a leather strop is his favorite device for sharpening a knife. As long as the blade is not extremely dull, it can work to shape fairly easily with a leather strop and sharpening compound. Travis mentions that hybrids seeds are usually more expensive because they are more costly to produce. They are also usually better quality seed because they have been bred for disease-resistance or high productivity.

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