Broadening Organic: Nutrient Dense FoodsWritten January 4, 2013, published in mid January 2013. All photos by Kathleen Sayce.
|A refractometer with three kale samples, from left to right, Red Russian, Red Curly and Green Curly Kales.|
Food QualityWhat’s a home gardener to conclude from this argument? I say: Expand your definition of organic gardening and look at food quality, specifically at nutrient density: What form of gardening produces the most nutrient dense food? ‘Properly mineralized soil’ is the correct answer. This goes beyond avoiding crunchy, sugary, salty processed foods, as good as these taste, to plant and animal foods with high quantities of minerals, proteins, fats, sugars and secondary compounds. This is nutrient density, which we can measure, and more importantly, we can taste.
|A light orange carrot with mashed fresh carrot in cheesecloth, ready to measure the carrot's juice in the refractometer.|
Nutrient DensityDensity is measured as dissolved solids in plant juices using a refractometer, a centuries-old device that uses refraction of light to measure fluid concentrations in Brix units. A bar of color crosses a numerical scale; you read the number on the scale. This is the Brix of that solution. In measures of plant sap quality, the higher the Brix, the better.
|A green curly kale sample in cheesecloth with bright green fresh juice.|
Food Quality, Flavor and HealthAs consumers of mass-produced foods, many of us have never tasted these flavor differences, due to lack of exposure to truly nutrient dense food. Bring on the compost, humus and biochar, and soil tests for minerals, so that we can determine exactly which minerals our vegetable gardens need. In a healthy soil with optimal levels of nutrients, all of those plants, including fruit vines and shrubs, peas, carrots, beans and even lettuces, will nosh in style, and deliver more nutrition and flavor.
|A red curly kale sample with its red-purple colored fresh juice. The chlorophyll is in there, but masked by the reds and purples of the red kale plant.|