Nutrition in the Garden

May 9, 2007

I received an interesting comment yesterday from an avid gardener who responded to my Top 5 Gardening Tips post.

She agreed with my gardening tips for the most part, but raised an interesting question regarding the nutritional differences of food produced through organic gardening vs. conventional growing methods.

Less Toxic Gardening is a Good Thing

Lexi remarked that organic food is “decidedly less toxic” but questioned whether the nutritional values and levels in organically grown fruits and vegetables would be on par with their conventionally grown counterparts.

Lower toxicity alone sounds like a pretty good reason to grow organic. In addition to fewer toxins remaining on the fresh produce itself, the organic gardener also doesn’t have as many concerns related to the handling or exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Conventional vs. Organic Nutritional Levels

As far as the nutritional levels of organic produce compared to conventionally grown produce, I think the advantage would go to whichever was grown in the better soil that contained the highest nutrient levels to begin with.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if well-grown conventional produce raised on fertile soil would contain higher nutritional levels than organic produce that was raised on more depleted soils. But I do believe that it is much easier to ensure a rich, fertile, and sustainable soil by applying organic growing methods.

There’s More to a Fertile Soil than N-P-K

Commercial fertilizers typically focus on providing high concentrations of the three major nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K), and don’t place much emphasis at all on micro-nutrients and other components of a healthy and “alive” garden soil.

On the other hand, organic gardening incorporates fertilizers such as compost, earthworm castings, and seaweeds, which provide lower levels of N-P-K, but offer significant amounts of the micro-nutrients, trace minerals, organic matter, soil organisms, mycorrhizal fungi, and likely other natural elements that have yet to be identified or synthesized in a lab.

The Final Nutritional Analysis

Lexi also mentioned using Brix Readings involving the analysis of plant tissues under a spectrometer to provide evidence of differences in nutritional values of produce that is grown organically vs. conventional growing methods.

I’m not familiar with “Brix Gardening” techniques but I do know gardeners and farmers that use brix readings to measure things such as sugar content or crop maturity. I am open-minded towards gardening techniques and ideas that are not strictly organic, but are safe, effective, and environmentally responsible.

I’d also be very interested in the results of the Brix Analysis and the comparison of the spectrometer readings. I think it would be interesting to also include a comparison of the nutritional values of a few wild plants and some heirloom varieties to conventionally grown produce. How about fresh or locally-grown vs. shipped? A lot of factors can impact the results.

If it’s high nutritional values that you’re after I doubt anything could come close to the nutritional content of edible weeds, wild plants, and wild berries. And if you think about it, wild plants probably have a lot more in common with organically grown foods than with conventionally grown produce.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

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  • I like your thinking in this article. I certainly agree less toxic is better! I am not familiar with the edible weeds in my area, although I have used them in other parts of the country where I have lived.

    But I am going to be testing some different things in my garden, your remarks about heirloom varieties interests me particularly. I wrote an article here Growing High Nutrition Foods about these matters. It should have a trackback to you, but I am not experienced about that so I am not sure it worked.

  • Pingback: Nutrition in the Garden | My Gardening Home Blog()

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  • I like your thoughts.. According to me Gardening is a wonderful gift for us by god.. Less toxic gardening is good.. I have some gardening products and these product are anti toxic and helpful in our plant’s growth..

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