Green Thumb
Posts: 632
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 7:37 pm

hybrids labelled as "heirloom" in catalog

I'm not trying to stir up a debate or anything. But I just received my Burpee catalog and they identify 3 hybrids as "heirlooms". To their credit, one is included in an "Heirloom taste tomato collection" and is not specifically identified as an heirloom, but is still included in the collection. 2 are tomatoes, one is a beet.

I just wrote a [url=]huge long blog post[/url] about it. But I'm giving you fair warning. Not sure if anyone here orders from them (I know I don't).

Green Thumb
Posts: 632
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 7:37 pm

link's fixed now :)

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Greener Thumb
Posts: 1909
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:13 pm
Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

you know, carol deppe, in her book breed your own vegetable varieties, suggests that some seed catalogs go the other way - calling stable, breed-true-from-seed varieties hybrids, perhaps to discourage seed saving.

not that this directly refers back to your post, just thought i'd throw it out there.

more on topic: i don't think there's any particular truth-in-advertising police for seed catalogs. if 'heirloom' seems to be a word that helps sell seeds in the current market, it seems some of the bigger, less focused on the actual continuation of old variety-type seed houses may just go for it, truth be damned.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

I've received three seed catalogues this past week, and I'll name names:

Johnny's Selected Seeds
Baker Creek

(I think I've only received three b/c, although I ordered from several companies in 2008, I saved a lot of seed and didn't order too much in 2009.)

1) Johnny's has an easy-to-find statement, boxed and headlined on the lower right-hand corner of page 1, called "The Safe Seed Pledge":

"Johnny's Selected Seeds is proud to be a member of the Safe Seed Initiative. We pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered or modified seeds or plants. For the full text of the pledge and our opinions on biotechnology, visit "

Page 114 of Johnny's catalogue provides a Glossary of terms, including Heirloom, Hybrid, and Open-Pollinated. On the right-hand side of the page is a list from A (Anthracnose) to ZMV (Zucchini Mosaic Virus) of Vegetable Disease Codes. These Codes are found in the seed offerings; various varieties of veggies are susceptible or resistant to different diseases, and Johnny's will tell you which is which.

I think this is all good stuff.

2) Baker Creek doesn't have the boxed-in Safe Seed Pledge, but inside both the front and back covers are encouragement for customers to become active in pure food/seed advocacy. The term "Frankenfoods" is thrown about liberally.

Example from page opposite inside front cover: "About Our Seeds."

"All of our seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. We do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. We boycott all gene-altering companies. We are not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization!" etc.

Baker Creek saved Connecticut's Comstock, Ferre & Co. from annihilation in 2010 and will celebrate Comstock, Ferre's BICENTENNIAL of selling seeds later in 2011 in Wethersfield, CT.

No glossary, but the website has tons of information for the confused new gardener re. hybrid/heirloom.

3) Unfortunately, the recent Burpee catalogues have shown me that longevity alone (Burpee's est. 1876) doesn't mean integrity or clarity of mission. Unless that mission is simply to make money in the short term.

There is no help for the new gardener anywhere in the Burpee catalogue as to the differences between hybrid, heirloom, heritage, organic, or open-pollinated varieties, or even what these mean in a general sense. The beginner will look in vain for any assistance.

Even the two pages dedicated to "organic" seeds (page 82) and "organic" plants (page 83) give no hint of why organic seeds/plants might be meaningful to gardeners. The only "information" on pp. 82 and 83 is "Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth (seeds) and "Pennsylvania Certified Organic" (plants). And--yes--on p. 83 there's an offer of organic plants for the...

...Heirloom Tomato, Burpee's Big Boy® Hyb. 3 plants @ $13.95

This is not eschewing obfuscation; this is inviting it. :(

Well, at least my decision-making--in case I can't find what I want near my house--has been simplified for me by *one* catalogue vendor! :roll:

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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