A young Conan O’Brien bites into a tomato

We’re talking heirloom plants.

An Heirloom plant is one that may have been commonly grown in the past, but is not commercially grown in modern agriculture.

Why do people plant Heirloom varieties?

Exceptional Taste – Modern varieties sacrifice taste , for commercial viability (being able to be gas ripened.) Whereas Heirloom vegetables were saved because they were the most flavourful.

Open Pollinated – Gardeners can save their own seeds to replant year after year.

Less uniform – Where it is advantageous to have an entire crop ripening at once in commercial agriculture, gardeners like the lack of uniformity in heirloom varieties.

In the past, a much wider variety was grown for human consumption (Before WWII, the majority of produce grown in the USA was of the heirloom variety.) Now, most food crops are grown in large single crop plots, and only a few types are grown (and these are selected  for their productivity, their ability to withstand mechanical picking and cross-country shipping, and their tolerance to drought, frost, or pesticides.)

There is some debate as to the parameters of heirloom status: Some say they must be 100 years old, while for others it is 50 years. Many gardeners consider 1951 to be the latest year a plant could have originated and still be called an heirloom, since that year marked the widespread introduction of the first hybrid varieties.