Heirloom vs Hybrid

Heirloom vs Hybrid vs Open-Pollinated Seeds For The Prepper Garden

In my opinion, decisions about heirloom vs hybrid vs open-pollinated comes down to seed saving. Although hybrids have their advantages too – just not seed saving. For seed-saving purposes, the most significant distinction is that gardeners can save true-to-type seed from open-pollinated and heirloom varieties, but not hybrids.

An heirloom variety must be open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. Sound confusing? Well, not really – let me continue…

What Are Heirloom Seed Varieties?

An heirloom variety is not only open-pollinated, but is a plant variety that has a history of being passed down within a family or community. It’s about the history. Heirloom seeds are passed down from generation to generation. And, they are true-to-type. Meaning, the genetics of the plant will be the same as what you planted before.

How Old To Be Considered Heirloom Seed Varieties?

There are some disagreements over the age at which an open-pollinated variety should be categorized as “heirloom”. Some say that 25 years is adequate. Others insist that the minimum age should be 50 years or older, assuring that they’ve stabilized. Some people even say 100 years or older. I don’t know the definitive answer…or if there is one.

My Opinion:
Open-Pollinated Is What You Want For Prepping and Preparedness

When it comes to the differences between heirloom vs hybrid vs open-pollinated, and what’s best for the garden prepper… It’s maybe best to consider open-pollinated (OP).

That might mean an heirloom that you like, and/or Open-pollinated or OP. Open-pollinated seeds will produce a plant that will produce seeds that, if saved properly, will grow into the same plant the following season.

Open-pollination is when pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural mechanisms.

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth
(view on amzn)

Hybrid Seeds Are Different

Hybrids are created by cross-pollination of varieties to produce a seed with the most desirable traits. Hybrid varieties can be bred to be tolerant to particular disease. Others, perhaps more drought tolerant, for example. Just about any characteristic can be created this way. Another example as follows…

Hybrid seed manufacturers want something that transports well and looks ‘pretty’ on a grocery store shelf. The thing is, when you breed for those purposes, you may lose other traits. Such as less than ideal flavor. The inability to reliably reproduce from the crop’s seed.

The bottom line is that hybrid varieties in general will not produce good results from seed saving compared with open-pollinated varieties.

Are Hybrid Seeds Same As GMO Seeds?

No. The term “hybrid,” refers to a plant variety developed through a specific, controlled cross of two parent plants. In contrast, GM varieties (sometimes called “genetically modified organisms,” or “GMOs”) are a whole different thing. GM varieties are created in a lab using highly complex technology, such as gene splicing.

Heirloom / Open-pollinated or Hybrid Seeds?

When thinking about heirloom vs hybrid, here’s something nice about heirloom’s… The use of heirloom varieties bring on the nostalgia of growing what your grandparents once grew. The recollection of such good flavor! Scrumptious and Delicious!

Most varieties of vegetables at grocery stores are hybrids. They’re bred to have long shelf life and tough skins for hardier transportation purposes. They also are bred to have regular shapes for attractiveness. Again, often at the expense of flavor.

These days, heirloom varieties are trending in the produce aisles of major supermarket chains across the country, indicating the increasing concern that people have regarding the vegetables that they eat.

If you are a gardener or prepper, open-pollinated and heirloom seed varieties varieties are advantageous because you only need to buy the seed once. Just save some of the seeds from the previous years harvest for next year. You might purchase a packet of seeds, grow them, and allow some of the plants to bolt to seed – for next year.

Having said all this, it is true that some hybrid varieties may be easier to grow. Because in some or many varieties, disease tolerance may be bred into them. Heirloom varieties typically require more attention to good gardening techniques and maintenance. Catching any potential problems early. They do not have any special disease tolerance other than their natural ability to deal with a given environment. But that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have problems either…

The rewards though are great. Natural food. Excellent flavor. Self-sustaining!

[ Read: Gardening Calories List of Vegetables From A Survival Context ]


  1. I use and store both heirloom and hybrid seeds (sort of a hedge my bets) in that the heirlooms provide better taste and future seeds, hybrids are far more disease resistant and usually have higher yields.

    1. Same here RC, i tend to have a slew of different seeds, just makes sense

    2. Romeo Charlie,
      you are exactly right. that’s what we do.
      seeds of all varieties are something else for us to to stack deep while we can. i believe that they will be in very short supply in the near future, kinda hard to find now, and most seeds will store well for a few years or longer, depending. save what you can for the next few years out of the gardens, and always have some backups. ya never know.
      i know i’m preaching to the choir here : )
      i may not eat meat every night, but i will eat.

  2. I prefer landrace. The fruit may not be as predictable, but you avoid many of the issues with inbreeding. You can also develop a landrace that fits your climate and planting practices, where an heirloom or OP variety will often fail.

    1. plant gardens and fruit trees when ever possible. grow your own food so that you don’t have to depend on others.
      it takes far less land than most people think, you just have to plan and utilize it correctly.
      DW and i at one time planted 8 acres every year ( we have 30 and did some truck farming when we were younger, no more.), we have learned over the years how to produce just as much on 2 acres or less for just us. it’s not how much you plant but what you plant and how. butter beans (Lima’s) would consume an acre, we started planting bush butter peas and can grow as much on 4 one hundred ft rows as we did one acre. we still do row crops, but we are going to experiment with a few containers this year, squash, peppers and tomatoes. i planted 4 pomegranate bushes, and 4 kiwi’s on a trellis this week.i hope they make. my blueberry’s, pears and figs are looking good. my apples have bit the dust.
      the house, yard, garden and tree’s are confined to a three acre spot now close to the house.
      it doesn’t take a lot of land to grow your own food. toss in a chicken coop and you,ll be good to go.
      good luck all.

  3. The only hybrid I grow is the Sun Gold cherry tomato. When I first bought the seeds, I didn’t know it was a hybrid and tried for two years to grow the tomato and then gave up thinking it was me and a bad years. Years later I just happened to notice it was a hybrid. 💡 turned on and growing it this year. They are by far the sweetest cherry tomato.

  4. I have grown both OP and hybrid crops and in my neck of the woods disease resistance is imperative. Hybrid is generally much more disease resistant and productive. OP produces some ….,hybrid a lot. I keep both OP and hybrid seed for two or three years planting. My personal opinion is to have and plant both as appropriate. I have found volunteers from hybrid plants that produce very well so in a $htf situation I will not hesitate to plant the seed from hybrid plants. They will revert to their ancestors so you then need to select from the best off spring for next year. You will eventually get the “land race” Lauren mentioned but for two or three years I will produce more in my garden.

  5. Papa J:
    If you like cherry tomatoes, you should try one called Juliet. Well, it’s sort of oval, but still a cherry tom. I use to grow them for a restaurant for about 5 years, and they said it was the only cherry tomato they served that never came back to the kitchen.

  6. We save seed and add new each year but we always have chocolate cherry, yellow and beefsteak tomatoes. We added some Mr. Stripy this year. I am anxious to get the garden tilled but it has been very wet lately. We have 3 trays of tomatoes, peppers and cabbage starts that will be ready to plant soon.

  7. I’ve always had really great harvests with heirloom seeds and rarely plant a hybrid . Besides the practicality of seed saving there is also an Old Testament admonition to not mix your seeds and critters . Stick with the way Gawd made them . Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9

  8. How do I store seeds for years? Heard in Mylar bag in freezer lasts 5 yrs… but if generator are stolen…What’s my solution? Any ideas?

    1. Tool man,

      I’ve been storing/saving seeds for a very long time. I usually have two tubs full at any given time, from my business of selling garden starts and having big gardens. I’ve never put mine in the freezer, not because I think that’s a bad idea, just haven’t ever done it. I store my seed packs and saved seed in 1/2 gallon or 1 gallon airtight glass jars, and put blue desiccant crystals in each jar. They gradually turn pink as they absorb moisture, and can then be re-dried in a warm oven and re-used. I pack my jars of seeds in big tubs and keep them in the darkest, coolest place I can find. I’ve never had any problems with viability or vigor using this method, and still get pretty good germination rates even with older seed. Someone who freezes might have some info on that method; I prefer to use my freezer space for other things.

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