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An heirloom plant, heirloom variety, or heirloom seeds are varieties that were commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which are not currently used in modern large scale agriculture. They are NOT hybrids, or genetically engineered. Heirloom vegetables/plants have kept their traits through open pollination, while fruit varieties such as apples have been propagated over the centuries through grafts and cuttings. Before the industrialization of agriculture, a much wider variety of plant foods was grown for human consumption. In modern agriculture in the industrialized world, most food crops are now grown in large plots. In order to maximize consistency, few varieties of each type of crop are grown. These varieties are often engineered and selected for their productivity, their ability to withstand mechanical picking and cross-country shipping, and their tolerance to drought, frost, or pesticides. Heirloom gardening is a reaction against this trend. Growing heirloom plants helps preserve rare genetic varieties.

Heirloom growers want to increase the available gene pool for a particular plant for future generations. The definition of the use of the word heirloom to describe plants is highly debated.
One school of thought places an age or date point on the cultivars. For instance, one school says the cultivar must be over 100 years old, others 50 years, and others prefer the date of 1945 which marks the end of World War II and roughly the beginning of widespread hybrid use by growers and seed companies or industrial agriculture. Many gardeners consider 1951 to be the latest year a plant can have originated and still be called an heirloom, since that year marked the widespread introduction of the first hybrid varieties. It was in the 1970s that hybrid seeds began to proliferate in the commercial seed trade. Some heirloom plants are much older, some being apparently pre-historic.
Another way of defining heirloom cultivars is to use the definition of the word "heirloom" in its truest sense. Under this interpretation, a true heirloom is a cultivar that has been nurtured, selected, and handed down from one family member to another for many generations.

Unlike the wide spread hybrid varieties, which are pretty much every seed sold in the United States, seeds harvested from heirloom varieties will produce viable and sustainable future generations of plants, whereas, second and subsequent generations of hybrid seeds may produce God know what, Frankenfruit, or nothing at all.

If you see the future of these United States becoming increasingly unstable, you should seriously consider the purchase and stockpiling of as many varieties of heirloom seeds as possible against future hard times. They are available, and they are expensive, but they will be worth their weight in gold, literally, when food supplies become scarce. You’ve been warned...

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Heirloom Seeds...