Heirloom plants are plants that were grown centuries ago, handed down through the generations, and are still grown today without genetic modification. Heirloom plants maintain their traits year after year even though they are subjected to open pollination. Growing heirlooms is becoming more popular in North America and Europe because of their resistance to disease, pests, and extreme weather.
Plants that have been genetically altered through artificial means, otherwise known as hybrids, cannot be sold as heirlooms. Hybrids were introduced to the market during the 1970s and are still used today in commercial farming.
Heirloom seeds are maintained in a seedbank where they are distributed to growers who will use them for studying and breeding, along with handing down to future generations.
Image Caption: Different varieties of potatoes, some of which are heirloom plants. Credit: USDA ARS/Wikipedia (public domain)