Saturday, November 13, 2010

Growing Nutritious Food

The western world is becoming more and more conscious of what it eats, finally. But we are struggling with deciding what is really healthy. While the long held definition of a nutrient is that the nutrient is required by the body for basic life, is good for some things, it is a far cry from a comprehensive definition of what is healthy.

Scientists are now looking at many naturally occurring chemicals and the affect they have on our bodies and trying to decide what is really important. Given the size of the task, it will be decades before we have a good foundation for what we really need in our food. Maybe centuries.

But if you turn away from the more complex science, the answers become clear. Healthy food will be food that is raised healthy. That should make sense even to a non-farmer or gardener.

Here are some of the more important factors:

Plant Nutrients 
Make sure the plants have balanced nutrients. This includes all the micro and macro nutrients. Most of the nutrients are more likely to be deficient, but two are more likely to be in excess: nitrogen and water. Yes water. Watch how much nitrogen and water you use.

Sunlight is the basic energy for plants. You can have everything else in abundance, but the plant won't live if it doesn't get light. Most common food plants grow best with full sun, but only a few are damaged by too much sun. Do your research and adjust accordingly.

Typically plants with more color have higher levels of nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. Choose species and varieties with higher intensity of color in the part that you eat. A good example is zucchini versus butternut. The butternut comes out way ahead for nutrition.

Organic Content of Soil 
This is another way of saying carbon in the soil. While there are many ways to get organics in the soil, including adding charcoal, the best ways are to add compost and plant based mulches. Soils with high amounts of organics grow better for a number of reasons, enough that I’ll have to cover that in a later post.

You will eat better if you grow your own food and will have better food if you plan ahead with these factors in mind.

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