Heirloom Fruits and Vegetables have several advantages:
1. The variety has proven to be reliable
In the context of gardening, an heirloom plant is a particular cultivar that has been grown and used successfully for many generations. These seeds are usually saved by ordinary gardeners, and planted in successive harvests many times. Then the seeds are handed down to the next generation, and the next. Only successful reliable varieties end up as heirlooms.
2. Heirloom plants are open-pollinated, not hybrid.
An heirloom plant is “open-pollinated”, and therefore not a hybrid of two different varieties. An open-pollinated plant is naturally pollinated by wind or insects. It comes true to type, meaning that each successive generation is like the previous one. Hybrid plants are popular entries in commercial seed catalogues. But if you gather the seeds from the first planting to plant a second harvest, you might get a strange array of plant phenotypes (size, color, growing qualities, etc.).
For prepping and survival purposes, you always want open-pollinated seeds, so you can save the seeds from each planting, to plant again for subsequent harvests. Commercial seed companies have an interest in selling you hybrid seeds, so you have to keep buying the same seeds again and again. That’s not what you want if survival when the SHTF is a priority for you.
3. The fruits and vegetables are more nutritious
Varieties bred for commercial use are often selected for qualities other than taste and nutrition. A commercial tomato variety needs to have a thick skin and ripen slowly, so that it can be shipped more easily. A commercial carrot needs to have the right size and shape. A commercial pumpkin needs to have a uniform color, and a specific size and shape. And so nutrition and taste gradually fall by the way side.
By comparison, heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables are bred selectively for flavor and for a reliable ample harvest. Some gardeners, myself included, believe that heirloom foods are more nutritious than commercial varieties.
4. Make your own Heirloom
You can improve an heirloom variety by gradually selecting the plants with the best qualities for seed-saving and replanting. Over many plantings, with repeated selection of the best seeds, the plant gradually becomes a new heirloom — one with the qualities you value in its fruits and vegetables. You can then hand down this new heirloom to the next generation.
5. Heirlooms accommodate to the microclimate
A crop that is grown by a gardener, saved for seed, and grown again, becomes improved by the continual selection of the best plants to continue the line. As a result, a “landrace” develops, which is a version of a cultivar that is adapted to a particular microclimate — the weather, altitude, soil, rainfall, pests, and other conditions of one specific location. This type of adaptation to a microclimate results in healthier more productive plants, a larger harvest, and better tasting food.
6. Your Heirlooms are valuable
Once you have an heirloom variety of your own, accommodated to the local growing conditions, the seeds are unique and valuable. No one else has quite this same variety of plant. You can use the seeds for barter or sell them to other local gardeners.
Do yourself a favour and choose open-pollinated heirloom varieties of plants for your survival garden.