06 August 2009

Thyme to Rethink Hybrids and All Things "Modern"

If you had to tune up your car these days every 10,000 miles, trade in your car because it rusted out in four years and got 15 miles to the gallon in your four door mid size sedan what would you think? Would you really want something from the 1970's knowing that newer cars get much better mileage, can go 100,000 miles without a tune up? You would probably say no. Unless you are an old car buff and understand there is a cost to preserving such nostalgia.

Vegetable and flower plants are not much different than cars. Today's "modern" vegetables offer most of the same advantages new cars do. Like cars new varieties of plants are called hybrids. Hybrid plants like modern cars are resistant to rust. Hybrid plants like modern cars have fewer problems with bugs. Hybrid plants like modern cars use less fuel (water in the case of plants). Hybrid plants like modern cars produce fewer emissions. (Hybrid plants require fewer pesticide applications emitting from a sprayer).

So why all the fuss over heirloom tomatoes? Are we trying to revisit the 1950's or Grandma's farm? Think about it for a moment. Except for the slower pace of life who really wants to go back to the "Good Old Days"? Ask any old timer who gets the modern stuff if the good old days were really that good.
My point? Tomato blight. Look at the photos posted here. I took them in my garden. These tomatoes are ruined. These tomatoes have the blight. Thanks you Home DePot and Lowes and Wal Mart for neglecting local growers who could have supplied you with quality plants. Thank you for buying infected plants and having them shipped all over the northeast and destroying not only my tomatoes but those of hard working northeast farmers as well.
Every grower has pest problems at some time in their career. But most growers do not ship their plants all over the eastern seaboard. Any problems with locally produced and sold products stays guess where? Locally............

What does this have to do with hybrids? The plants sold by Bonnie Plants to the big box stores were not hybrids they were heirlooms, they were vintage 1970 Chevy Vegas and Ford Pintos. Nostalgic but susceptible. The tomatoes in my garden with the blight are heirlooms, German Green, Cherokee Purple and an obscure variety from Siberia. I grew all these from seed.
The tomatoes in my 8 year old's front yard garden are HYBRIDS with the exception of three plants. They are blight free.
I feel the rush to heirloom as far as tomatoes go have been a disservice to gardeners. We have been told that heirlooms taste better. They taste better than supermarket varieties yes, but better than Patio, Super Bush, Supersteak, Celebrity etc. etc? Not at all.

Want to know what life was like in the good old days? Visit an antique store and ask yourself if you would cook or clean with any of the appliances gracing the shelves of the antique mart. If so then be prepared to pay the price for nostalgia.
Nostalgia plays an important role in our lives indeed. But let's not forget that some modern conveniences are worth the effort lest our fondness for all things old become blighted as well.


  1. I've also grown both hybrids and heirloom and found the hybrids to be the better use of my limited garden space and time.

  2. Martha in many cases this is true indeed. I have found very few benefits from heirlooms other than saving the varieties from extinction and the fun novelty tomatoes from days of old!