The word ‘heirloom’ harkens back to a nostalgic time—when life was sweeter, tomatoes were redder and folks actually used the word harken.
Open-pollinated, or parent plants that are naturally pollinated, heirloom plants produce heirloom seed. The new generation of seeds will produce plants that are identical to its parent plants.
Many folks say that to be classified as an heirloom the cultivar has to be at least 50 or 100 years old. Others say before World War II ended. (The end of World War II marked the industrialization of agriculture and widespread hybrid cultivation.)
Heirloom plants have proven to be more heat tolerant, drought tolerant, insect resistant and have more vitamins and minerals. If they didn’t have any of these desirable characteristics, we wouldn’t grow them and soon they wouldn’t exist.
Mrs. Burns’ lemon basil (Ocimum basilicum citriodora ) is an heirloom (pre 1940) basil grown by Mrs. Burns in southwestern New Mexico. This lemon basil is taller and has larger leaves than other lemon basils. It also has an intense lemon flavor and fragrance.
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