At Burpee we are frequently asked why some seeds are more expensive than others. The answer is that hybrid seeds are more expensive to produce than open-pollinated varieties. Hybrid varieties are particularly easy to grow and harvest, and there are many wonderful varieties available at good prices.
Hybrid seeds are produced by crossing two different parents, and will grow only one generation of plants. The offspring from a hybrid revert to resemble the parentage, so saving seed from hybrids is not recommended. All hybrids are so noted on seed packs, and
"hybrid" is part of the seed name. Each year the Burpee growers must cross-pollinate the same parents and harvest new seed to achieve the same superior results. The process is not complicated but, for some varieties. it is labor-intense.
In the case of some hybrids, cucumbers and squash, for example. male and female plants
A tomato flower has both female and male parts. A breeder will designate some tomatoes to be the female plant. These "females" are staked for easy identification when pollinating and harvesting. Field workers then remove the anthers—the male organ—-from these tomato flowers to prevent the tomato from self-pollinating.
Flowers are then collected from other, "male" plants of the same variety and these flowers are dried on screens set out in the sun. When the pollen is dry. it is shaken from the flowers and stored under refrigeration to keep it fresh until ready to use.
Pollination of tomatoes is done by hand. When the female flower turns yellow and blooms, seeds men have a day or at the most two to pollinate that flower. Workers dip the stigma—the female organ—into a glass pollinating tube (designed by Burpee). The stigma is covered with pollen, then marked by removing three sepals surrounding the flower. This is done so that, when they return to harvest the tomatoes, they can identify and pick only those hand-pollinated. As many as twenty-two workers per acre spend Jive to six weeks pollinating one tomato hybrid.
The story doesn't end there. After harvest, the tomatoes are crushed and fermented, the seeds separated from the pulp, washed, dried, and bagged. Only then are the seeds ready to package for the home gardener.
The popularity of miniature vegetables is on the increase. In big city areas, commercial growers supply these little morsels to fresh produce markets where they command a very high price to compensate the grower for the smaller yield in pounds per acre.
Babv vegetables tend to be milder and more tender than their fully grown sisters. As a home gardener, you can pick are planted in adjacent rows and the bees pollinate and cross-pollinate them. For others like tomatoes and cantaloupe, pollination must be done carefully by hand.
Why develop hybrids? What the breeders are looking for in a new, hybrid vegetable variety and what the gardener wants in a vegetable are the same.
Good flavor is first and foremost. Vegetables that appear in supermarkets, tomatoes in particular, are grown from seeds bred to meet the commercial growers' criteria. The commercial grower wants his vegetables to ripen together so he can harvest the entire field more economically at one time. He prefers good keeping quality, which may result in tough skins. Take the case of tomatoes. The commercial grower wants them to ripen slowly after being picked green, so they last when on the road to the supermarket, instead of being sun-ripened on the vine. All of this accounts for the difference in taste between home-grown and commercially grown varieties.
There are advantages beyond better flavor which the home gardener enjoys. Disease resistance is one of them. l>ook for the letters V, F, or N, appearing after variety names, in catalogs and on seed packs. They tell the home gardener that these varieties are resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and nematodes. Concern for the environment has encouraged breeding for disease resistance, allowing us good results without using harmful chemicals.
Ix)ts of new varieties are heavy yielders that produce more than the older varieties, so the home gardener can enjoy more produce from less space. Space-saving plants, the dwarf varieties, mean that a heavily producing plant can fit in a container garden, and you can grow more plants in a small garden, for a larger harvest from less space.
MINIATURE OR BABY VEGETABLES
and serve some of the vegetables you grow as baby vegetables and allow others in the same crop to mature to full size.
The tiny ears of corn used in Chinese cuisine can be harvested from any sweet corn variety. When tassels—the male portion of the flower—appear on the top of your corn plants, you know that the silks—the female part—are about to appear. Watch closely and you'll see that only a few days after tassels come the silks. Just pick the tiny ears of corn within two or three days of silking. Pick okra young, and pick any summer squash within 24 hours of flowering. Zucchini should be no more than 4 inches long. Even delicious "new" potatoes fit into this second category .
When selecting vegetables to harvest as "babies." buy only recommended varieties. Some vegetables, when picked early, lack the vitamins, sweetness, and flavor that develop only as the vegetables mature. Fortunately there are some baby vegetables which we heartily recommend, bred for their small size and, when mature, provide the nutrition and flavor their bigger cousins do.
You can grow many "true" baby vegetables in your garden. The following is a list of baby vegetables plus those vegetables which can be picked while immature. All are mild, tender, and full of vitamins, sweetness, and flavor.
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