Why is naatu thakali better than the large hybrid ones? Read on...

When it comes to home (or kitchen) gardens many people prefer hybrids because they seem to grow faster and look better. However, it is best to go with wild or native varieties of seeds because when it comes to taste, flavour, nutritional and medicinal value, as well as the hardiness of plants and their produce, wild varieties of plants win hands-down.

Wild, traditional and native varieties of seeds are the proverbial sons of the soil, and they germinate far better. After all, they have evolved over thousands of years to best succeed in local conditions and withstand local pest attacks. D. Narasimhan, associate professor, department of plant biology and plant biotechnology, Madras Christian College, explains, “For instance, the smaller native tomatoes (naatu thakkali) are more sour than the large hybrid ‘Bangalore tomatoes’; small onions (chinna vengayam) are tangier and have more medicinal value than the hybrid big onions (periya vengayam). The tiny green chilli is spicier than the large and long hybrid green chilli. Wild flowers are more aromatic than their hybrid counterparts. That is because hybrids have been developed mainly for their size and voluminous produce. In the process, the subtle and complicated processes that bring about their flavour, fragrance and medicinal value take a hit.”

It is important to note that most of the seeds we get in commercial plant nurseries are hybrids. “But once you lay your hands on some wild seeds and raise a generation of plants, wild seeds can then be easily raised from their fruits for generations,” adds Pauline R. Deborah, assistant professor, department of plant biology and plant biotechnology, Women's Christian College. Native seeds can provide us with generations of seeds, while hybrid seeds are designed in a way to last only for a generation.

Remember, buying seeds year after year does incur a considerable cost. With traditional seeds, a few plants can give you all the seeds you need for succeeding sowing seasons. Traditional seeds can be obtained at a few eco-stores such as Restore.