By: Michelle Gwaltney
During a casual conversation recently about the importance of where and how produce is grown someone said to me “it doesn’t matter where you plant a seed because the nutrients are in the seed already”. That person was correct for roughly the first seven days of a plant’s life. The protein encapsulation around the seed will feed that seed for the first week, after that, how it’s grown matters. We tend to pay close attention to how our proteins are raised. Grass fed Milk is all the rage now and show me meat packaging that doesn’t say “raised without antibiotics”. We don’t spend as much time focusing on how our plants are grown. Why not?
Plants have a life cycle just like we do, just accelerated. When a seed is planted it is considered an infant. It then awakens and depends on the protein shell surrounding it while it gets firmly set in a new environment. Once roots begin to form and take hold it is an adolescent ready to stretch, grow and absorb (eat) what’s available. Beyond adolescents we have a fully formed plant ready to flourish to the best of its ability based on the environment provided. Is the young adult plant being provided chemical filled fertilizer? Or, plant food made from pure earth minerals? Does the plant have nutrition available all the time or does the nutrition run off due to environmental factors? Hopefully, it is also getting proper amounts of sunlight and water. If all these components are balanced for the life of the plant, you end up with a vibrantly colored, delicious plant. When you eat a healthy plant, you know it because you can taste it. I like to say flavor equals nutrition because it does.
In addition to the environment a plant lives in we should also want to eat plants that were allowed to ripen in their natural environment. Sadly, most of the produce we see at the grocery store and at many farmer’s markets today was picked while in the adolescent phase. It was not allowed to mature naturally and sway in the wind while absorbing more and more nutrients. The more mature the plant is when you eat it the more nutrition you can absorb from it. Produce picked before maturity will look like a tomato or head of lettuce, but it won’t have much flavor and it won’t last long. It was provided minimal nutrition, picked early, and shipped across the country. If you don’t eat it quickly your window will close, and it will become more filler for the compost or trash bin.
At Emerge Gardens we grow produce using aeroponics which is an advanced form of hydroponics using rockwool, water and nutrients made with pure earth minerals to grow. Our closed loop technology allows us to recycle the water and nutrients used on our farms so we can grow using 98% less water than a conventional farm which is critical for our local growing conditions. In addition to producing nutrient filled produce our methods do not introduce herbicides or pesticides to Florida’s water table.
If you are tired of flavorless produce that rots after a few days stop by our local garden located at 6427 Elliott St., order a salad at Wildwood Pizza in or shop online at swflproduce.com.