There was just a big gardening article in my local paper about preparing for our county fair (next July).... Get seeds now for a new competition catagory for newly introduced varieties (cutting edge hybrids). It got me thinking about how my local radio and newspaper garden "celebrities" promote "the usual suspects" All American Selection varieties etc and either don't know about "heirlooms" or have derogatory things to say about them. I don't really like the word "heirloom" because it was meant to describe old family varieties, but is used in the marketplace for anything that is not a hybrid (I.e open pollinated varieties).
Modern hybrid vegetable development is aimed at looks and productivity (both in terms of yield and disease resistance). Flavor must fit into a general norm for the most part (in order to sell at the supermarket) , although sweet corn is trending towards varieties that are sweeter than frosted breakfast cereal.
I have my suspicions that a lot of home gardeners (at least new ones)pick what they do because of the advertizing. I know that with the first tomato seeds I ever bought my descision was based on disease resistance. The package scared me into thinking that tomatoes were sickly creatures. Little did I know that there were no tomato diseases within twenty miles of my Los Angeles third floor balcony tomato growing in sterilized potting mix (white flies were a different matter). I also didn't know that tomatoes could taste vastly different from the slices on my Big Mac.
An observation I had growing up in suburban farm country is that people with gardens are always giving stuff away, which is a pain in the rear if you think about it...having to sneek over to the neighbors in the dead of night to leave a bag of anonymous zucchini on their porch because you know that you would spend time in purgatory for tossing perfectly good, but unwanted, vegetables away. Seems to me that growing less productive varieties would make for a more enjoyable gardening experience.
Flavor is another matter. Four years ago I grew Super Sugars Snap peas. They are "super" because of improvent over regular Sugar Snap Peas (slightly shorter vines and resistant to powdery mildew). But then I tried the original (not super = Clark Kent Sugar Snap peas ) I much prefer the flavor of the original and will accept a little lower production for something I like to eat more.
Modern Americans tend to be more reliant on the grocery store than the garden...we just cracked open a jar of spaghetti sauce or a quick meal the other night instead of pulling out one of the 20-30 packages of cooked tomatoes in the freezer to make sauce (not my call on that one), so I'm tempted to believe that in many cases garden produce is (in a way) luxury rather than neccesity.
So that leads to my title queston. Is maximizing productivity in your garden high priority for you? or are you content with average productivity in exchange for variety and/or flavor? or are you someone that likes to try the new cutting edge stuff to see what you'll get? How much does space limitation affect your viewpoint?