Why Heirloom fruits and vegetables are so important

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

Heirloom or Heritage means exactly that...it is an older variety that has not been tampered with by man too much in a laboratory. Is there a difference in their health giving properties? That is what we are on the hunt to find out.

So both these apples are pretty much the same age – actually they were exactly nine months old when I took this photo. I had been carrying them around with me and showing groups of people how they were changing month by month.

So what is the difference between them? – one is a heritage or heirloom variety off our property and the other is a store purchased organic modern HYBRID variety.

I first learned the difference when I moved to our lifestyle property and I joined a Permaculture course (Permanent Agriculture, not Mono culture) , and we planted heritage/heirloom fruit trees on our property.

The Apple ripens on the tree and when it reaches peak ripeness it falls to the ground. As the natural plant sugars intensify through ripening it starts to rot and eventually goes brown. It literally eats its own sugars. This rotting process also protects the seeds inside until they are ready to grow into a tree. It will produce a viable seed that can grow for the next generation.

All of nature’s bountiful fruits and vegetables are meant to go through this life cycle, reproducing seed that is viable for the next generation.

This natural process of life also means heritage/heirloom fruits and vegetables have a shorter shelf life.

This apple is the same age as the rotten one and the difference is this 'organic' apple is a hybrid variety.

It is very difficult to find when they actually started hybridising our fruit and vegetables. We know the process happened with our grain crops during the Green Revolution but I have been unable to pinpoint the transition with other food crops. I suspect it has happened progressively.

My husband can still distinctly remember the day his Mum came home with a Mandarin tree. It was the latest and greatest horticultural event – a hybrid.

It was sometime in the late 1950s early 1960’s

So what did that mean?

  • The tree would produce fruit sooner.

  • The fruit would be bigger and more uniform in shape and size.

  • It would produce more fruit than an heirloom.

  • It could be picked all at the same time and shipped around the world and it wouldn’t go rotten.

The shops could keep it on the shelf for a much longer period of time.

The seed is sterile and will not reproduce.

This solved a massive problem for mankind. It meant countries like New Zealand could ship its fruit across the world and not have it rotten when it arrived in port on the other side of the world.


The enzymes and compounds necessary to bring the plant to peak ripeness are missing. A hybrid will never be able to rot in the way a normal plant rots to complete its life cycle. This is why our fruit and vegetables are lacking the flavor of our heritage varieties. They don't have the same essential plant saccharides/sugars that are required for our health.

The Science of Glycobiology or Glycoscience involves studies related to structure, biosynthesis, biology and functions of different saccharides, glycans, oligosaccharides or the different proteins which interact with the glycans.


They have discovered that there are 8 essential saccharides critical to the health of our cells. For the complete story on The 8 essential sugars and the importance of Glyconutritionals visit this article.

UK Professor Dan Burke and Professor Gerry Potter (Medicinal Chemistry) in collaboration with other scientists have also made exciting discoveries in the field of plant based compounds and enzymes that are proving beneficial in cancer treatment, prevention and our general health and well being.

They called there discovery Salvestrol's. These plant based compounds are 'pro drugs' which means when they come into contact with a diseased cell (the CYP1B1 enzyme that is unique to cancer cells) they attack and destroy it without damaging healthy cells. Salvestrol's are the plant worlds defense mechanism against disease, incoming invaders and fungal attacks. They perform the same service for us, giving us a natural defense mechanism against disease.

These natural compounds are found in abundance in healthy organic fruits, vegetables and herbs that have been picked at 'peak ripeness'. If a hybrid is unable to reach 'peak ripeness' or an organic heritage crop is picked before 'peak ripeness' it will be lacking in Salvestrol's, and so our modern western diets are now lacking these important nutritional compounds.

The research showed that non organic supermarket fruit and vegetables have no salvestrol content. They put this down to modern farming techniques, and what I call hybridisation. Just as we discovered in the Green Revolution article, modern grain varieties require spraying with Glyphosate and other pesticides to grow because they are prone to disease and attack by predators. Hybridising has removed the natural plant Salvestrol's whose job it is to protect the plant against disease so our fruit and vegetables are all heavily sprayed to ensure they survive.

Salvestrol is available in New Zealand and used by a range of Natural Health Practitioners.


We live in amazing times. Science is now looking to the microcosm within and making truly amazing discoveries.

Yes our world has changed and so has our food, and to answer the question 'Has the health of our food changed?" - I do believe it has. For me this article sheds light on the why....why cancer is increasing in our population and why even when we think we are eating well it may not be enough.

Heirloom and Heritage Foods are our wild food sources. If you are going to plant an orchard or even one tree - plant an heirloom variety. These passionate gardeners are a great place to start with a wide variety of heirloom fruit trees available, and winter is the best time to start.


Ask locally, or visit farmers markets and ask the question. I did this recently at our local Te Hana Nursery - some of the trees are over 100 years old and will be Salvestrol rich ! I came home with a bag of amazing apples for juicing for $6

Bitter foods are really important...and so is variety. Mix it up.

If in doubt supplement.

You can contact Salvestrol NZ and do more research for yourself.

PXP Royale is my go to choice because it is a heritage rice rich in complex plant saccharides, polyphenols, polypeptides and is picked at peak ripeness, so will also be high is Salvestrols. The starch is milled off leaving a concentrated natural food, and I don't need to be under the supervision of a health practitioner. (available in our shop).



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