A nutrient dense garden is the best way to grow produce that has the best flavor possible. Did you know that you can create food that is more nutritious than any organic food you can buy right in your backyard?
Food can be grown many different ways and in many different conditions. Is your food being grown in a method that gives the farmer more food per acre? Or is the producer of your food growing in a system that gives the end consumer more nutrition in each bite?
Just because a food is labeled organic doesn’t mean that the farmer had good growing practices that increased the nutrient density of the food. I would venture to say that the organic grower is more interested in higher nutrients in their food then the conventional grower. But that doesn’t guarantee that the food has more nutrition.
Key vitamins start to diminish as soon as the fruit or vegetable has been harvested. The fruit or vegetable will consume its own nutrients to stay viable. The longer it is stored the fewer nutrients will be available to be consumed. Produce grown in our own back yard has a shorter travel time to your table than anything you can buy. When you grow your produce in your backyard you can control the growing method and storage time.
So how do we tell if a fruit or vegetable has higher nutrition?
A superior quality fruit or vegetable will have more carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals. When a fruit or vegetable has higher nutrients the density of the vegetable will be greater; because minerals weigh more than water. A low-quality fruit or vegetable will have fewer minerals making it bland, watery or mushy.
. When you consume fruits and vegetables that are nutrient dense you feel like you have just bitten into the best fruit or vegetable on the planet. Your body jumps for joy as you take another bite. You also get fuller faster because your intake is less sugar, more nutrients!
So How Can We Get More Nutrient-Dense Food?
There are several steps that the home gardener can take to make sure that they and their family are getting food that is as nutrient-dense as possible.
1. Recognize the Problem
Of course, you can also judge the sugar content yourself based on flavor. Have you ever noticed how much better green beans taste when they are fresh out of the garden vs. after they have been sitting for a few days? The difference is not merely in your imagination!
You can train yourself to recognize these subtle flavor differences. And don’t be surprised if you find your cravings for sweets is lessened too.
Color is also an indicator. More vibrant colors often mean higher levels of vitamins A and C.
Inexpensive soil tests can also let you know if the soil in your garden is lacking in nutrients.
2. Feed Your Soil
There are lots of techniques that you can use to re-mineralize your soil. Compost, rock dust and mulching with dynamic accumulator plants are all things you can use to bring micronutrients back into your soil.
Some sources also recommend using no-till gardening techniques in order to improve the amount and quality of humus and organic matter in the topsoil.
3. Choose Local Heirloom Varieties
Local heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables are often slower growing as well as more adapted to the particular climate and soil conditions in your area, and as a result are often more nutrient-dense than other more commercial varieties.
So instead of growing the smooth and perfect looking tomato, choose to grow the one that might be a bit lumpier – but makes up for its imperfect appearance in flavor and nutrient density.
4. Harvest at Peak Time
Finally, harvest your vegetables when they are at their nutritional peak. Iron content, sugars and vitamin levels are at their highest on sunny afternoons. Tomatoes, zucchinis and beans should be picked when ripe, while leafy greens are usually at their best during the “baby stage.” Try to pick them when you are ready to eat them, too.
Remember: Just because the world has seen a decline in nutrient-dense food doesn’t mean you can’t still get delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables from your own garden.