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Heirloom fruit, by definition, must be organic and naturally pollinated. Some people consider heirloom fruit to be superior to hybridized fruit. It is believed that through generations, the plant has a chance to evolve and develop a unique and complex flavor that cannot be matched through industrial agriculture.
Some species of heirloom apples date back as far as the 1600s. Each type of apple has its own flavor and texture. Some apples are best when baked into a pie, and others are most delicious when eaten right off the tree. A few examples of heirloom apples are the English beauty, Adams pearmain and northern spy.
Heirloom melons are very different in taste and color than the average cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew melon found in many grocery stores. Melons are the sweetest of the heirloom fruits. Heirloom watermelons grow a variety of species, each with its own unique coloring and flavor.
Most of the cantaloupes found in grocery stores are actually a species of muskmelons and are not heirloom fruits. Though heirloom muskmelons are also grown, they are not likely to be found in a supermarket. A true heirloom cantaloupe does exist. It is called charentais cantaloupe, and it originates in France.
An heirloom honeydew melon is differentiated from commercially grown honeydew melons by its smoother texture and sweeter taste. This heirloom fruit originates in France and Algeria. It was introduced to the United States in about 1911. While the common, industrial versions of the honeydew melon all share a similar color, the heirloom honeydew melon grows different species with green or orange flesh.
The plump, juicy strawberries that populate most markets in the U.S. are a hybrid of the two most common heirloom species of strawberry. Hybrid strawberries are one example of a fruit that is generally preferred over the heirloom version. One heirloom strawberry can be found in North American meadows and is small but full of flavor. Another type of this heirloom fruit grows along the Pacific Coast of South America and is large but mostly tasteless. A couple of examples of European heirloom strawberries are the Italian Alpine strawberry and the European woodland strawberry.
Unlike most other heirloom fruits, heirloom pears are relatively easy to find in a grocery store. Some common species of heirloom pears are Barlett, Seckel and Bosc. Many more species of heirloom pears exist and are used for a variety of purposes, including cooking, baking and eating raw.
Heirloom blueberries are as delicious as they are nutritious. Each generation of these heirloom fruit bushes can live 40 to 60 years. The foliage of the bushes are beautiful, with leaves that transform from green to stunning red. Heirloom blueberries generally are smaller than hybrid species but pack a full punch of flavor, juices and nutrients.
Many species of heirloom fruits have gone extinct. The ones that are still being harvested can be a little difficult to find. They are rare because most places a person would buy fruit, such as their local supermarket and even farmer's market, only offer mass-produced, hybridized varieties of fruit.
Each year at our local farmer's market, we have several vendors that offer a variety of heirloom fruits and vegetables. I have found some of the best tasting apples and tomatoes from these growers that I have ever had. One of the vendors at the market even offers heirloom seeds for sale, which I am planning to buy this year. I want to try to grow some of my own heirloom produce because it is so good.
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