What's Better: Organic Or Heirloom?

What, exactly, is the difference between them anyway?

March 24, 2016
Mitch Mandel

Organic used to be all the rage. Now it’s heirloom, especially when it comes to, say, growing tomatoes. But what the heck is even the difference, anyway?

Organic refers to a specific way plants and seeds are grown, and it has real advantages over conventional methods. In fact, a Study Found Organic Food Is Healthier. To earn this label, food must be raised and processed in accordance with the USDA's National Organic Program. The label prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetically engineered seeds and materials, biosolids, and fresh manure. Organic growers and processors, as well as the plants and seeds they produce, must also be certified by an inspection agency accredited by the USDA. If you're incredibly bored (or at work), you can review the NOP in detail at ams.usda.gov.


Related: 10 Scary Reasons Why You Should NEVER Buy Conventional Pork

Heirloom refers to the plant’s heritage. With seed-grown plants, only open-pollinated varieties are considered heirlooms. Unlike hybrid plants, open-pollinated seeds will reproduce “true to type,” meaning the offspring will display the same characteristics as the parent plant, and seeds can be saved from season to season—and here's an explanation of The Difference Between Hybrid Plants And GMOs. Seeds are generally considered heirlooms if they were introduced into cultivation at least 40 years prior to the current date, though some experts consider seeds heirlooms only if they were introduced before World War II.


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Gardening organically goes hand in hand with growing heirlooms, since many were introduced before synthetic fertilizers and pesticides became available. But heirloom does not guarantee produce was raised without chemicals, making organic a better choice when you’re worried about toxins.

This article originally published on Eat Clean.