So many seeds, so little time – so where do you begin? First you need to understand the language.
Heirloom. You see this term in magazine articles, blog posts, seed catalogs – so why is it important? Heirloom seeds are considered treasures by many. This category includes trusted, new, open-pollinated varieties as well as those passed down over generations. Many people love the idea that a variety has “history”, and usually the result is a plant with fewer pest/disease issues as well as tasty fruit/root/leaves, etc.
Hybrid. Also labeled as (F1). Modern hybrids are produced by cross-pollinating two distinct, inbred parents. This results in a plant that typically produces unviable or unreliable seed – making it difficult for home gardeners to save seed. Current trends give hybrids a negative vibe, mainly because the hybridizing is man-made, rather than nature-made.
Organic. This is a label regulated by the USDA National Organic Program. The standards eliminate or reduce chemical inputs in producing the seed. While many prefer organic seeds, others are more concerned that the actual food production is done using organic methods.
GMO (Genetically-Modified Organisms). GMO seeds have been lab-engineered and may contain genes from other life forms. However, GMO can also include lab-engineered hybrids.