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April 21, 2010

Heirloom vs. hybrid

Heirloom tomatoes


Photo credit: Flickr/See-ming Lee

If you need more proof that gardening in general and vegetable gardening in particular has become a national topic, look no further than Wednesday's Wall Street Journal and a story by Anne Marie Chaker on the latest battle in the on-going war between heirloom and hybrid. Tomatoes, of course.

It is the most planted plant in the country, and last year was a disaster for tomato lovers when blight wiped out both commercial and home-grown crops.

Heirloom tomatoes, the WSJ story tells us, have become hugely popular for their fanciful colors and their rich and wide-ranging flavors: from sweet to smoky.



But heirlooms - grown from seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation without any genetic mucking about -- are also very vulnerable to disease and insects. And these plants don't produce very abundantly. So now, the Journal says, seed companies like Burpee and Park are offering heirloom look-a-likes that are hybridized for disease resistance and higher yield.

The heirloom stalwarts are appalled, of course

Posted by Susan Reimer at 3:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Vegetable gardening


A few seasons ago I planted heirlooms. The first crop was beautiful and tasty.

The rest of the season was wiped out by a succession of blights.

I would love to grow more tomatoes like that for their flavor but honestly, my garden is small enough to where losing one plant makes a huge difference.

Sorry, heirlooms.

Look alikes??? Can we get more shallow?

I had 2 Brandywine plants last year, bought from the Towson Garden Club ladies at their annual sale held at Kenilworth. (Watch for it! Prices reasonable, interesting selection and the Garden Clubbers will talk gardens with you forever!) Didn't yield as much as my Big Boys and Early Girls, but, Oh! My!

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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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