Well amended gardens just steps away from the kitchen offer some of the best nutritional additions to your diet right from your vegetables. Even that knobby green bean which would never make any food prep picture.. it holds within it superior nutritional content than the canned counterparts in your cupboards, or the frozen ones behind the ice cream.
Why does this matter? Well.. everyday we are bombarded by an assortment of influences that attack our health. One of the things that helps us ward off this onslaught.. vitamins. I'm not talking about the store bought supplements, although they can be helpful. Vitamins C and E in particular are quite the avid free radical fighters.
If you have any awareness on conventional agriculture, you realize that nitrate-nitrogen are a big problem. It is the basic fertilizer, made from natural gas, that they dump across the fields. The green factor as they push the boundaries of farming. It is volatile and leaching is constant. It is moving into groundwater, created a huge dead zone in many water bodies.. from there it seems to not be though of much more.
Nitrates, when eaten get converted into nitrites in the body, which are carcinogens. Hence the self restraint while munching cured meats from the deli or the ever blessed bacon. It is check in some areas as levels above 10mg/L are known to lead to issues like.. blue baby syndrome. The body is unable to carry enough oxygen to body cells, infants in particular are sensitive.
Odd then that I would suggest well amended soils? Not really. Compost has a way of slowly breaking down and releasing it's elements in a plant useable form. Compost is essentially rotted matter.. primarily plant and manure origins, that have gone through a microbial alteration. The microbes have converted these materials back into simple components.. building blocks for the plants in the garden to utilize.
The quality of the soil directly impacts the nutritional content of the crop. You can taste the difference... literally. Compost is more than just N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium).. it brings trace minerals that were as well contained in the materials. The more varied the matter going into the compost pile, the better.
While I have almost always had a garden, my drive for many years was the glee I would have at picking what I grew. Never quite as big as I wished it could be, often an uphill battle.. I'd try to sneak in as much as I could into our meals. The health aspect got rather slammed into our faces repeatedly. Yet another sibling of mine will not live to the age of 50. It makes you stop and take a serious look.
It takes time to build up the soil. The reward is food that honestly feeds you. The growing seasons vary depending on where on the planet you dwell and often wanting to savor those bits of summer means looking towards food preservation.
Oh hell... here I go being fluffy again. Frankly.. things are getting wacky. The food industry keeps suffering from lapses of safety, the chemical companies seem to be able to tell the government what is safe and what is not.. they even pad the "scientific studies" in their favor with multimillion dollar "donations" (which get yanked should the study results not be favorable.) The agriculture system is failing us as they slather genetically f-d up crops with a battery of chemicals. The system is based on oil. I flat out don't know how much longer they can keep up the "status quo" which already seems to be faltering. The rants are on about how large everyone has become, the next generation not expected to live as long as us.
Know what you can compost, start a garden now. Know what bugs, pests, diseases you have to contend with.. and really the way you do that is by some good old hard work.. and DIG IN! You can try to buy an instant garden, but without knowing how to maintain it.. the expenses can get insane.
Learn how to save your food.
Above is from healthyeatingclub.org
Food preservation methods
Method Advantages Disadvantages Drying (e.g. freeze-drying, spray-drying, sun-drying) Produces concentrated form of food. Inhibits microbial growth & autolytic enzymes.
Retains most nutrients.
Can cause loss of some nutrients, particularly thiamin & vitamin C. Sulphur dioxide is sometimes added to dried fruits to retain vitamin C, but some individuals are sensitive to this substance. Smoking Preserve partly by drying, partly by incorporation of substances from smoke. Eating a lot of smoked foods has been linked with some cancers in some parts of the world. Refrigeration Slows microbial multiplication. Slows autolysis by enzymes Slow loss of some nutrients with time Freezing Prevents microbial growth by low temperature & unavailability of water. Generally good retention of nutrients. Blanching of vegetables prior to freezing causes loss of some B-Group vitamins and vitamin C. Unintended thawing can reduce product quality. Adding salt or sugar Makes water unavailable for microbial growth. Process does not destroy nutrients. Increases salt and sugar content of food. High heat processing (e.g. pasteurisation) Inactivates autolytic enzymes Destroys microorganisms. Loss of heat-sensitive nutrients. Canning (involves high heat processing) Destroys microorganisms & autolytic enzymes. Water-soluble nutrients can be lost into liquid in can. Chemical preservatives Prevent microbial growth No loss of nutrient. Some people are sensitive to some chemical preservatives. Ionizing radiation Sterilizes foods (such as spices) whose flavour would change with heating. Inhibits sprouting potatoes
Extends shelf life of strawberries and mushrooms
Longer shelf life of fresh foods can lead to greater nutrient losses than if eaten sooner after harvesting.
Stability of nutrients in food.
Nutrient Stability Characteristics Vitamin A Quite stable during processing and cooking Vitamin D Very stable to heat but sensitive to exposure to air and light. Vitamin E Relatively stable except at deep frying temperatures Vitamin K Stable in cooking but sensitive to light. Thiamin Quite unstable to heat and alkaline conditions. Lost during refining of cereals. Dissolves in cooking water. Riboflavin Very sensitive to light: 50% lost from milk left in sun for 2 hours.
Relatively stable to most home cooking methods (unless bicarbonate of soda added).
Niacin Stable to most processing but leaches into cooking water. Vitamin B-6 Moderate retention during most processing. Vitamin B-12 Moderate retention, but losses occur when heated under acid and alkaline conditions. Folic acid Large losses can occur during cooking. Presence of copper aids
Pantothenic acid Relatively stable during most home processing. Biotin Good retention during most home processing. Vitamin C Unstable. Losses occur from exposure to air, light, heat and copper.
Also dissolves in cooking water.
Saving the nutrients in food.
Do not store fresh foods for long periods - purchase just enough to last a week or less, and
eat soon after buying.
Store foods in a cool, dark place.
If slicing or chopping, keep the pieces as large as possible.
When boiling, add the raw food once the water is already boiling.
Use the smallest amount of cooking water possible.
Cook all foods for the shortest possible time. (Especially in the case of vegetables, lengthy cooking causes large losses of nutrients).
Do not use copper pots or utensils.
Do not use baking soda to preserve the colour of vegetables, as this increases vitamin losses.
Use cooking water and liquid from canned foods for gravies, sauces and soups.
Microwave cooking, because it is quick and avoids the use of cooking water in most instances, is a good way to save nutrients.
Gardens are popping up everywhere for a reason.. the need to eat has taken more interest in our free time and finances than vacationing or luxury toys.
I see the alterations in environment.. and I don't mean global warming. Human movements have created a situation where ever new invasives are introduced.. this alters regional ecology, even to the point where how an area can handle weather gets screwed. Water is already contaminated. We still have another few decades of the slow runoff yet to deal with even if they clean up now.
I am a big supporter of gardens, orchards, growing your own. The reduction in waste just by composting is huge. I find it odd to throw kitchen scraps out as they are a raw material in my eyes.
Maybe some perceive me as some sort of hippy. That makes me laugh, and in no way offended. I like to forage, I appreciate reusing materials, I like learning old skills... a lot. I spent several weeks in the Amazon staying in a village of indigenous people. There was no plumbing, no grocery store, no roads!! You gathered, hunted, fished your next meals.
Nature is balance. They taught us this at a young age.. the food chain. Too many predators and the prey population dwindles to where the predators starve out. The numbers balance.. they constantly fluctuate. Check and balance. Except with people.
I see gardens as a need. A need because one should know what they are eating. The quality needs to improve and diets need to alter. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. How beneficial is that food you are buying when you don't know how it was grown, you don't know how long it has been sitting, you don't even know where it came from. You most likely don't know how quickly it gets restocked either.
In that chart above.. if you look, you'll notice something that seems to be the first vitamin to go.. Vitamin C. Scurvy hasn't been a problem for quite a few years.. but vitamin C is a major antioxidant.
If you are storing food, then you are watching calories and some are forward sighted enough to zero in on nutritional value as well. A garden can extend your stores dramatically. A garden can improve your health. By nature.. good food helps you have the ability to fight disease, recover from injury, fend of allergens, anti-inflammatory.. you get the idea.
The future is going to be challenging.
Sorry if this isn't cohesive.. limited time and a lot to ponder. Your input is always welcome and I appreciate your point of view.