Jana Bogs’ book about her nutritionally enhancing growing system is out at last. The publication of “Beyond Organic: Growing for Maximum Nutrition” is good news for farmers and gardeners anxious to learn ways to grow more nutritious and delicious vegetables and fruit.
The book reminds us why we might want to enhance the nutritional value of our food. Bogs includes statistical information on the decline in nutrition in our soil that directly translates into the crops grown in the depleted soil. The nutritional decline also accompanies a noticeable loss of flavor and a reduction of shelf life. Perhaps, if tomatoes and green beans grown today tasted like those our grandmother grew, folks might prefer them to sweets and fast-food and approach the USDA recommended daily minimum of five servings of fruits or vegetables.
Bogs makes the link between reduced nutrition in our crops and the increase in pest pressure and diseases in plants which transfers to an increasingly diseased human population. She points out that cancer, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are all affected by our diet. Improving our diet could reduce the incidence of these diseases.
The growing system Bogs has developed began with her PhD work with apples. For her dissertation research, she compared cultivation systems from the soil, through the fruit, all the way to the effects on human blood when the apples were consumed. Bogs found that apples grown in a biologically enhanced organic system had higher levels of antioxidants and were preferred in taste tests by consumers over conventionally grown apples. Conventionally grown apples are, however, usually dowsed with more than 30 applications of chemicals which could also adversely affect their taste.
Bogs identifies the steps to growing nutrient rich crops. Step one is to have a comprehensive soil test done on your growing area followed by applying the recommended amendments. Bogs recommends selecting plant cultivars, usually heirloom varieties, that optimize nutrient uptake. Once plants are established, she recommends doing tissue testing to discover additional plant needs followed by application of the required elements. The final step in her system is saving seeds from the best plants for replanting. This nutritional boost can enhance flavor, shelf life, appearance and appeal, which means more nutrition from less food. Bogs sees this growing system as a partial solution to some of the health issues that plague us today. She points out some of the reasons that nutritionally grown foods can solve some of the world hunger problems far better than genetically modified crops as well as conventionally farmed or even some organically grown crops. She also explains the ways that nutritionally grown crops have less environmental impact.
One of the highlights of Bogs’ book is when she discusses the inputs that plants need for optimal nutrition. By presenting information on many elements that are necessary for optimal plant growth, she delivers a knowledgeable mini lesson in soil science.
Bogs lives on the Big Island and is available to guide interested farmers and gardeners though the process of improving the health of their soil, their plants and ultimately their food and themselves. She can give personal advice on ways to collect soil samples and get a complete soil test. She can also guide you through the process of amending.
She will present her new book and answer questions at Tuesday’s “Words and Wine” at Kona Stories Book Store in the Keauhou Shopping Center starting at 6 p.m.
If you can’t make her presentation, check out the book for some excellent information on ways to get more nutritional bang from you fruit and veggies. Information on Bogs and her growing system is available online at beyondorganicresearch.com. Get yourself and your family growing and eating more nutritious food, then watch for improvements in your health.
Tropical gardening helpline
Hank asks: I have found some interesting pods on the ground at my new property. The pods are dark brown with the shape of prominent seeds revealed through the somewhat soft flesh. I tasted the flesh and it is very sweet, kind of like a date. What could it be?
Answer: If the pods do not have crispy light brown shells, they are probably from the monkey pod tree. If the pods are in shells, you may have a tamarind.
The sweet flavor of the pods was the clue that led Brian Lievens to the positive identification. Some people claim the monkey pod tree got its name from the monkeys that congregate on its branches to eat the sweet seed pods.
The monkey pod, Pithecellobium saman, is a fast-growing tree, native to the tropics that can get very large. It produces pink powder puff flowers followed by pods that contain a sweet edible pulp that supplies food for several animals.
If your tree is not already large and you don’t have room for it to grow tall and wide, you may want to remove it or just keep pruning it to control its growth. It will drop pods seasonally and may create an unwanted mess.
Email plant questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.
Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant with an organic farm in Captain Cook.