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What are heirloom vegetables?

I have been seeing heirloom vegetables in the grocery store, like heirloom tomatoes, or heirloom zucchini.  I know what an heirloom is that is handed down from generation to generation as in a necklace or statue or something like that, but obviously that does not apply when it comes to vegetables.  So what, then does the term heirloom mean when applying to vegetables?

    Posted 6 years ago

    Heirloom seeds refer traditional strains of vegetables that may not be common in the generic marketplace. Through genetic modification and mono-cropping, the trend has been steadily moving towards less variety of kinds of vegetables. There are potentially hundreds of strains of tomato, for example, but only a few that are mass grown and sold on the marketplace. So one might ask, why does it matter?

    Some common motivations for growing heirloom vegetables are 1) to sustain rare or endangered strains and increase the gene pool, 2) for historical interest, 3) as a form of organic gardening, 4) because they taste better. If you are seeing them in grocery stores it is probably because of a unique taste, but also because it is a “socially responsible” kind of product.

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