In my last post, I wrote about Seed saving with the explanation of OP and Hybrids pending. Why should you know about OP and Hybrid ? The reason why you are saving seed is probably you like some trait of that plant like a) taste, b) color c) appearance. Or any other habit of that plant. Lets say you go to a friends house and see a sweet cherry tomato!. You bring some seed; sow and wait for sweet cherry ( ofcourse you would). Your expectation is it should yield sweet cherry. What it would yield? Here is where OP and Hybrid comes into picture.

OP – Open Pollinated:

In OP varieties, the pollination ( a.k.a Plant sex!) happens naturally by wind, insects, animals, birds, humans etc. The seeds formed as a result of such pollination, results in new generation of same plants. Usually OP varieties are grown in such a way that crop of two different varieties are not planted close to each other to avoid cross pollination. This is usually achieved via growing the crops at a distance from the other or covering them with net so that they pollinate with the same variety(self pollination). This way, varietal purity is achieved. So a sweet cherry seed will result in sweet cherry tomato. You can save the seeds of the plant and still get the same variety.


A Hybrid vegetable seed results from the cross or mating between two different varieties or “parents” of the same plant species. Two varieties of the plants are chosen for their desirable traits and carefully cross pollinated manually to produce a variety that has desirable quality from both the parents. Saving the seed of a hybrid seed will not always guarantee the same qualities that you desire. A sweet cherry may not be sweet at all. This is just an example but you get the idea.

There are much details explanation of How a hybrid is formed and how breeders come up with a new variety. I will leave that up to you!.

So, if you want to save seeds, make sure the fruit is not from a hybrid ( plant grown from hybrid seed).

If you are planning to save Heirloom seeds, ensure the plants of a variety are not grown next to plants of another variety of the same species.

You can avoid cross pollination by

1. Covering the plants with mosquito net.

2. Keeping the plants far away from each other.

3. Timing the sowing such no two varieties flower at the same time.

Happy seed saving


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9 Responses

  1. Lovely post. Very informative.
    I have a doubt though, any idea why the seeds of hybrid variety won’t retain their hybrid qualities ?
    Am li’l disappointed after knowing this, as I was planning to do some seed saving from my current harvest, which are all made up of hybrid seeds (I guess so).

    • Hi Raja,

      Thanks. For your question, the answer deserves another long post. However, I will give you a short answer as to why saving a hybrid is not fruitful.
      To understand this, lets see why we need hybrid. I have two tomato varieties with different traits( say large fruited sour and small friuted sweet). If you want a large fruited sweet then you cross them. ( In reality its not as simple as this. There are recessive an Dominant genes. For this example we will leave that aside). Lets say the genes of Large sour is XX and small sweet is YY.

      When you cross pollinate them, you get a combination like this XY, XY. You get 2 combinations both of which are XY and XY. (heterozygous). This is called F1 Hybrid or First Filial Generation. This is the F1 you see in the label. Breeders do manual pollination between two selected varieties to get you the pricey F1 seeds.

      Now the enthusiast comes home and grows the veggie and finds the yield to be of his choice and decides to save the seed. Obviously he/she wouldn’t have done a controlled pollination or anything close to that. If the flowers self pollinate, we get something like this.
      XY and XY becomes

      XX, XY, YX, YY. Now, in this 4 combination only one is XY which is of the type you wanted. THe other two are going back to their parent. and there is one YX which could turn out something interesting. Now it is F2 generation. To avoid this uncertainty, seed saving from a F1 is not encouraged.

      I didn’t do justice to the topic but I hope it conveys the reason why F1 is not preferred.
      Any questions, Please shoot.

  2. That’s a fabulous explanation. It bought back memories of 10-12th standard biology which I studied in school and very conveniently chose to forget after that.
    Thanks for sharing such excellent and useful info.

    Talking of seed saving, I now remember seeing those F1 labels on costly seed packets. I guess, I bought only the cheaper ones which are hopefully of OP variety. So, am all set for doing some seed saving of beans,capsicum,tomato,okra this season.

  3. Hi Gg

    Tell me, are all heirloom varieties open pollinated where ever you get the seeds from? Is it possible to have OP and hybrid seeds of the same tomato variety, say the sweet red cherry. Thanks


    • Hi Revathi,

      Yes all heirlooms are OP. That is exactly the reason why, they remain same since decades. what we grow is same as what our ancesters grew. The moment you say Hybrid, it becomes a mix of two varieties. Hybrids wont come true to type in ther first generation. To get the same sweet red cherry you have to hybridize every season.

      hope this helps.

  4. Hi Gg!
    Excellent post! It’s simple yet beautifully explained.
    Also, tell me is it correct to say that the heirloom varieties are superior in taste to the hybrids though more prone to diseases?

    • Hello Taby,

      Thats true. Heirloom varieties are quite tasty. Although not all of them. Some tomato heirloom varieties I have don’t taste that great
      Hybrids have more disease resistance.

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