Heirlooms vs hybrids vs protected genetics

digitS'

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@AMKuska , obviously it was the flower end of the banana that was richer and creamier (drawing from my own taste trials).

It's interesting that the only vegetable Seed' mentioned was okra in the original post but the conversation immediately turned to tomatoes. (Good thing that he didn't mention beans sssshhhhhh 🤫 ).

There is a huge number of tomato varieties. I'd be surprised if the number of those grown commercially comes anywhere near 10% of those kept in family gardens from every corner of the world. I remember an interview with an author who had little interest in writing about tomatoes until he was on the road, following a truck carrying a load of tomatoes out of a farm field. Tomatoes began to fall off the truck - they bounced!

Of course they did. Those tomatoes were harvested before they were fully ripe and were a variety that was suitable for shipping. We have some popular varieties that the plant breeders were hoping to sell for commercial purposes but were failures. Notable among those is Early Girl, probably still the most popular home garden variety in the US.

Okay, after say 40 years of Early Girl in over half of the American gardens, what have most Americans grown up thinking of as "vine-ripened tomato" flavor? It wouldn't surprise me if it's Early Girl. Tastes are unique but experiences are limited. It could be that many of those "kids" would prefer a variety with different flavor or, at least, appreciate it as much. When they gain those experiences, they just might decide that it's "the one" and not the ones that were picked and shipped green and in their supermarket. Given enough time, they might experience some of the many, many varieties and become true tomato aficionados. What are they waiting for?!

There once was several popular tomato tasting festivals in Carmel California, upstate New York, Kansas City - from those that I have read about. The tasters weren't wearing blindfolds. I imagine that they were influenced by the appearance of the fruit. But something that I really suspect was true - the fruit was also harvested from different locations. What is it in wine production - an AVA? I bet it is even more significant for tomatoes than grapes. When I read about the area in South America where native tomatoes grow, I am impressed with how unique the climate sounds. And yet, tomatoes are grown in all sorts of climates, by gardeners! Something of an aside, I once read a kind of an educated guess that civilization began in those places where wine grapes were grown. Human interest in wine was such that specialized labor and skills were appreciated. Trading wine for food and other essentials developed. Other crafts developed modeled on that ... cities grew ... civilization! Well, anyway :).

Steve
oh! here's a Mother Earth News article on "Best Tomatoes" where they used ideas from experts and websites that compiled individual ratings. it's more than 10 years old so there are now more varieties to catch up on! LINK
 

Pulsegleaner

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LOTS more. I'd say that, by now no matter WHAT you want out of a tomato (vis a vis color, size, shape, etc.) there is SOME variety that has it. Up until a few years ago I had a sort of no win situation in that I like the FLAVOR of green when ripe tomatoes, but had a problem getting production out of anything that wasn't a cherry. It was Green Grape or nothing. Now there are literally three or four DOZEN green cherry tomatoes, including cherry forms of both Green Zebra and Aunt Ruby's German Green.

But I have always focused on the more obscure varieties, on purpose. To me trying to pick a national top ten risks going back to the same problem of limited types. More types than before, but still limited. If everyone decides that Brandywine is the best, then Brandywine is all that will be grown.
 

Zeedman

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But I have always focused on the more obscure varieties, on purpose. To me trying to pick a national top ten risks going back to the same problem of limited types. More types than before, but still limited. If everyone decides that Brandywine is the best, then Brandywine is all that will be grown
Couldn't agree more. Because my garden revolves around preservation, it has increasingly shifted away from commercial varieties (and even the more common heirlooms) and toward more obscure varieties that I think are worthy of greater exposure. That's not really a sacrifice; as already pointed out, there are thousands of different varieties out there... if you do a few trials every year, you will eventually collect quite a few "keepers". While I might still find a few more (and what would gardening be without trials) I'd be quite happy to grow just the favorites I already have.

I'm afraid I can't really comment on the flavor comparison between hybrids & OP varieties, since I've only grown a few hybrid tomatoes in my lifetime... and that was in my early gardening years. Flavor is such a subjective thing; and even flavor for the same variety can vary year-to-year, or depending upon how the tomato is used. I grow firm, low-seed varieties for canned salsa, sweet juicy slicers for sandwiches, strong flavored varieties for use in soups & stews, and small varieties for snacks & salads. Each of those is, IMO, a standout for its particular usage.

There are undoubtedly good-tasting hybrids, but there will never be as much variation in flavor as can be found in the thousands of OP varieties which are available. The chief advantage of hybrids is improved disease resistance, and the heavy yields that come with increased plant vigor; so to gardeners with serious disease problems, or those with challenging climates, flavor may not be the paramount issue. Great flavor is irrelevant if you don't get to taste any.

I still grow hybrid sweet corn, and hybrid zucchini occasionally; but save seed for all my other vegetables. Keep in mind, hybrids only make sense when breeders can get a large amount of seed, so certain crops (like beans) will never be sold as hybrids.

As a dedicated preservationist, I have strong feelings about this topic & could go on at length (oops, think maybe I did already :duc) but I'm not out to make converts. All gardeners make their own choices... and that is as it should be. Gardening is, by its nature, an act of freedom & individuality.

But this thread has thus far revolved around the comparative flavor of hybrids vs. heirlooms, and has not addressed the topic of "protected genetics". I have nothing personal against hybrids, other than the fact that they have squeezed many good OP varieties out of the seed trade, and force consumers to buy new (and expensive) seed every year. They are also proprietary & bred from controlled lines... so if the hybrid variety you like disappears, there is no way you as a gardener can re-create it. It is protected not by patents, but by secrecy.

Patented seed is another matter. The PVP system is, IMO, a fair way to protect the rights of the breeder, who is entitled to profit from their labors. As a gardener, you have the right to grow a PVP crop without license, and to save seed or stock - but not to sell or share it with others.

I strongly object, however, to industry efforts to patent a trait, such as past efforts to retroactively patent all warted pumpkins, or all yellow beans... traits that had already been in existence. Patents are also the current obstacle preventing day-neutral Nunas popping beans - which have already been bred - from reaching American gardeners. IMO it is a fundamental right to choose your own food supply, and a patent which prevents you from doing so is, if you will pardon the pun, patently wrong.
 
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seedcorn

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@Pulsegleaner You are too deep of a thinker for me....:frow I don’t worry about eating the future of the world out of my garden. I just pity the ones that eat store bought.

@baymule maybe that’s why I never grew Oxheart? I know in past I have. So now do I need a list of smart tomatoes vs stupid tomatoes? My head hurts......:he

@AMKuska too funny.......:lol: are there even GMO bananas?
 

seedcorn

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@Zeedman Not wanting to cause problems but one of your statements is incorrect. You can not save and use seed from patented varieties even for your own use. Well, you can, but it is against the law.

On seed patents, they run out after 10 years so no genetics are ever tied up forever. You also have the rights to duplicate what a breeder has done by starting with “open line” genetics. (Really NOT wanting to get into this discussion, GMO also works that way but what you lose (unless someone stays after it) is the ability to sell that GMO in the market place.)

Whether you will see hybrids in a certain plant is all about how easy it is to make. Corn, easy, thus hybrids galore. A small breeder company will look at millions of new hybrids every year hoping to find that one special hybrid. Companies like Bayer and Corteva, probably look at billions. 90% are junk. Soybeans are very difficult so you probably won’t see them ever.

Sad truth, is the seed business is a very competitive, expensive business (with great potential margins) that there are very few of them left. There are a lot of seed saver companies as well as seed seller companies-not to be confused with breeder companies. Breeder companies have secured, excellent storage for any genetics they can. Never know when a gene from there will be of importance.
 

ducks4you

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I believe that they are many factors that go into the taste of a tomato. Many people, some here, swear by the sweetness of the yellow pear tomato, but every one that I have grown has been sour. Too many variables controlled by the grower. I think that you should grow what you want, and I wish EVERYBODY a successful 2020 tomato harvest!!! :hugs:hugs:hugs
The only advantage to an heirloom is in saving seeds and producing the same plant next year. The hybred seeds turn into mules. Also heirloom harvests are more leaves and less fruit, bad for canning, imho.
 

seedcorn

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Agree that soil make up greatly affects tomato flavor. My G’mother from southern Tennessee could never make chili that came close to my moms using the exact same recipe. She always thought Mom kept something back in the recipe. It was the tomatoes.
 

Zeedman

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@seedcorn , I appreciate that you are not being argumentative, but only attempting to clarify a sometimes complicated issue. I hope you understand that I am doing the same, with no malice intended.

On seed patents, they run out after 10 years so no genetics are ever tied up forever.
From the USDA:

"The Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO) provides intellectual property protection to breeders of new varieties of seeds, tubers, and asexually propagated plants. Implementing the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), we examine new applications and grant certificates that protect varieties for 20 years (25 years for vines and trees)."
(added emphasis mine)
USDA Plant Variety Protection

@Zeedman Not wanting to cause problems but one of your statements is incorrect. You can not save and use seed from patented varieties even for your own use. Well, you can, but it is against the law.
"Can I save seed from PVP-protected varieties?
Yes. You can save seed from PVP-protected varieties to plant on land you own or rent. You just cannot sell or trade the seed for planting purposes."
Regarding PVP seed laws

So PVP patented varieties can be saved or multiplied by the original purchaser only, but not shared or sold without permission from the patent holder. Utility patents - such as GM seeds - are a different matter. Those can't be used, increased, or even possessed without license. It is violation of those patents which most often leads to legal action. I didn't mention GM seeds, since unlike PVP varieties (such as the Sugarlace pea) those will never be available to gardeners, so they are irrelevant to the current discussion.
 

seedcorn

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@Zeedman I stand corrected. No offense taken at all. I still stand corrected but...

Does this mean that the home gardener or farmer cannot propagate the seed of a protected variety and save it for future planting?
Under provisions of the PVP law and regulations growers and home gardeners can grow, and save seed for their own future planting, of any legally purchased protected variety they wish. However some protected varieties that are sold may have other limitations due to patents or contracts and may not be saved for future planting. It is best to review the seed package label carefully for restrictions that may apply.

In Ag, all varieties are protected and you are not allowed to use as seed. Usually on order form as well as all company brochures it is stated that you can not save seed. I’d bet all PVP varieties are covered by this. On mom/pop gardens, this is not persued but in AG, good way to get visit from the Pinkertons.
 
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Zeedman

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Thank you, @seedcorn for that insight. The comment about "other limitations" has me puzzled, I have never seen a reference to that in regard to PVP law. I'm assuming that since the regulation pertains to "home gardener or farmer", that those special requirements only pertain to the latter. Is that your experience? To your knowledge, is there a variety available to home gardeners that would carry such restrictions?
 
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