The major reason behind the disappearance of heirloom varieties was the introduction of Hybrids and GMOs. Industrialization and increase of population’s demand for food are resulting homogenization have lessened the number of varieties of vegetables being grown.
Over time, as more and more markets wanted to cash in on this specialty item, it seemed as if heirlooms took on a life of their own. More and more growers stepped up to service the growing demand for them. Seasonality soon became year-round as greenhouse and hybrid varieties became involved, and consumers started expecting them year-round. The market also demanded longer shelf life. It means harvesting the produce is raw, when the flavor is still not completely developed, which is against the idea of “fresh from the plant”.
Somehow the idea of Heirloom produce became its enemy as stated above and the competition received from hybrid and GMO was nowhere close to keeping up with.
Hybrids: A plant with exceptional yield is crossbred with one that has superior disease resistance. While hybrids are usually the result of a lab situation, it is a process that could have occurred in nature.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):
GMOs cross unrelated species, nothing that could ever happen in a natural setting.
Most of the vegetables grown commercially are hybrids as they allow farmers to grow more efficiently with increased yield, disease resistance, uniformity of fruit, and shelf life. Unfortunately, for all this progress we had to sacrifice something along the way: flavor, nutritional value, and biodiversity. Most importantly, we are losing variety. “The trend for hybrids has dramatically reduced biodiversity worldwide.
Hybrid seeds, which are the more common variety, have been crossbred between two different seed varieties to produce certain traits. Hybrid plants are often more productive than heirlooms, yielding more fruits and vegetables in a shorter time. For this reason, hybrid seeds have come to dominate the agricultural industry.
REDISCOVERING THE HEIRLOOM ERA
BRINGING THE ERA BACK TO THE CURRENT WORLD
The major challenge for the heirloom industry is the product may not seem relevant to sell to the direct market as it can’t sustain the competition. The industry needs to find ways to get incorporated in various business segments such as Organic Produce, Organic Heirloom Based Hotels, terrace gardening/Urban farming of heirloom varieties. Further promoting can be done Tourism and Festivals for the celebration of the heritage of Heirlooms.
- Heirloom produce-based restaurants.
Heirloom products show customers the possibilities that exist within a healthy, natural environment. The plant-based menu changes constantly to highlight the dozens of heirloom fruits and vegetables are grown on the farm. The menu can be dynamically changing, which will often be depending on what’s in season, including tons of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Some popular chefs are now moving away from hybrid vegetables, which are engineered to produce uniform results and can sometimes highlight visual appeal over taste or nutritional value.
. Heirloom seeds that have been passed down for years give diners a chance to find a connection to past generations. They offer us a glimpse into the past via the flavour that our ancestors once tasted. It explores the powerful social force of nostalgic foods, and why a “growing number of people seek in heirlooms both a new culinary experience and a connection to a more generalized past. The flavour, colour, quality, and general appearance are all superior to heirloom vegetables when compared to conventional vegetables
Since Heirloom restaurants are very limited, there has a First Mover advantage: it can become first of its kind, Health, and Organic restaurant. it will capitalize on all aspects of being the first in the industry. This will be a major factor that will take advantage of industry trends. To counter future competition, the restaurant will be the most experienced in this industry thus allowing it to gain the trust and confidence of its customers. Trust and confidence of customers will be gained by maintaining the authenticity of our product offerings and by delivering quality service. This will help the restaurant build a loyal base of customers.
- Sowing seeds of heirloom in Eco-tourism/Agro-tourism
Agritourism has different definitions in different parts of the world and sometimes refers specifically to farm stays as in Italy, agritourism includes a wide variety of activities, including buying produce direct from a farm stand, navigating a corn maze, slopping hogs, picking fruit, feeding animals or staying at a bed and breakfast on a farm.
Ecotourism and mainly we are now using alternative for everything so we have to teach and concentrate on future generations and educating children about a clean environment, planting more trees eating nutritious food and from where does your food comes from and promoting locality.
Agritourism can provide an amazing educational experience, whether it is a tour of a farm or ranch, a festival. Heirloom Farmers can turn their farmlands into a destination and open their doors to the public to teach more about the heritage of Heirlooms and how to plant them, give the urban public a chance to experience to eat “fresh from plants”, etc. This will also help growers or seeds in marketing themselves.
According to a Research-
- 72% of travelers believe that we must act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet and future generations.
- And 73% of global travelers intending to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation when looking at the year ahead.
This is a wonderful opportunity for categorizing Heirlooms into region-based tourism.
Image- Pumpkin Festival in South Florida
- Incorporating into terrace gardening/urban farming-
Heirloom varieties particular to your region, for instance, have been bred to grow in a particular climate and should therefore be especially well adapted to the location. Many people are drawn to heirloom varieties because their stories can connect us to our cultural and agricultural history.
These can be the reasons Terrace Gardening fanatics indulge themselves in growing Heirloom varieties which will help them relive the agriculture history.
Image- Heirloom Tomato Varieties
Heirloom vegetables are not always identifiable based on appearances alone. Any kind of distinct appearance—a purple tomato, a black radish, a yellow carrot—is probably the best indicator, though not all of these varieties are necessarily heirlooms. That said, heirloom vegetables are almost guaranteed to help create an identity for such a business, and this trait can help them become a unique sellable function in the market.
As a home gardener, you don’t have to pay more at the farmer’s market or at a restaurant to enjoy the distinct flavor of an heirloom vegetable. And, if you’re a market farmer, there’s a growing market of people who will pay more than supermarket prices for heirloom varieties.
WHY EDUCATE ON HEIRLOOM?
The existence, cultivation, and propagation of the heirloom seeds of the world are critically important, not only so that we have a diversity of color and flavor on our plates, but because these treasures hold the genes of the future of vegetables on planet Earth.
We can grow heirloom crops, of a huge and wondrous variety, right now. In the generations before us, families used to offer heirloom seeds in a special wooden box as a gift to newlyweds, with the understanding that they were offering food and life, in an unbroken tradition. that was a wonderful tradition. Have fun learning what grows best in your region, and what delights you on your plate.
Heirlooms often embody particular shapes, colors, textures, flavors, and productivity traits for which they have come to be known and sought by farmers and consumers. They are recognized and prized for their specific qualities that have lent uniqueness to the cuisines of many of the world’s cultures. Thus, the wealth of genetic variability encoded in heirloom cultivars of our crops is one of the treasures of our shared global food system
As our farming systems become more industrialized and our climate becomes more erratic, enhancing, rather than shrinking, our crop genetic diversity will be critical for feeding the growing population of the world. Recent efforts to characterize, preserve and enhance heirlooms abound, bringing these unique types to the forefront of many modern breeding efforts.
One person’s forgotten vegetable is another person’s heirloom. One group of people may not be consuming something, but then another group nearby, or in another part of the world, has been consuming it for generations. There are all these (foods) moving around the planet and changing meanings as they move. For one person, it’s a taste of childhood, another person it’s brand new. We see that again and again, and then eventually, food can get incorporated into national identities.
Article by- Nikitha Carmel & Sourabh Namde
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