Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Grow Your Own

we have chosen broccoli (oh, please check this link) Brassica oleracea as our example veggie here, even though science, in the person of dr davis and associates, have said that it's better to examine groups of food, or some science blather like that.

the seattle post-intelligencer (what kinda name is that?) wednesday morning had a piece from scripps howard by lance gay about research done by dr. donald davis at the university of texas comparing the levels of nutrients in garden vegetables between 1950 and now. the headline is "Fruits, vegetables not as nutritious as 50 years ago." i don't think he means the stuff we grow in our gardens, rather the stuff we buy at the supermarket, that is mass produced, er, grown.

from the UT page on the research of Dr. Don Davis:

According to Davis, establishing meaningful changes in nutrient content over a 50-year time interval was a significant challenge. The researchers had to compensate for variations in moisture content that affect nutrient measurements, and could not rule out the possibility that changes in analytical techniques may have affected results for some nutrients.

“It is much more reliable to look at average changes in the group rather than in individual foods, due to uncertainties in the 1950 and 1999 values,” Davis said. “Considered as a group, we found that six out of 13 nutrients showed apparently reliable declines between 1950 and 1999.”

These nutrients included protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. The declines, which ranged from 6 percent for protein to 38 percent for riboflavin, raise significant questions about how modern agriculture practices are affecting food crops.

“We conclude that the most likely explanation was changes in cultivated varieties used today compared to 50 years ago,” Davis said. “During those 50 years, there have been intensive efforts to breed new varieties that have greater yield, or resistance to pests, or adaptability to different climates. But the dominant effort is for higher yields. Emerging evidence suggests that when you select for yield, crops grow bigger and faster, but they don’t necessarily have the ability to make or uptake nutrients at the same, faster rate.”

no wonder we are devolving. i have to eat more than i ate in 1950 to get the same nutritional value. now we have some scientifically measured evidence that confirms what many of us think about supermarket produce...that it's the vegetable/fruit equivalent to air bread. maybe not quite, but that is where it's headed. faster, bigger, more perfect and more easily harvestable broccoli (our exemplar veggie here) may look good, but not be as nutritious as its older, what we quaintly call heritage, ancestors.

home veggie gardens have now become good for us not only for the physical exercise, the connection to nature, the enjoyment of planting and weeding, the actual food we get to eat, whatever radical (root!) statement may be implied, or is it inferred, about modern life, but also, if we grow heritage strains, be more nutritious than what we could buy at the supermarket.

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