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Nutritional Value Organic Vegetables Soil MattersWhen we blog about various veggies here at Golden Gate Organics, we do our fair share of research to provide accurate information about nutrient content in an effort to increase your attraction to these colorful, dietary wonders.

The truth is, if you’re purchasing veggies from local farmers, who use organic or biodynamic farming methods, and who focus on the quality of their soil – you shouldn’t ever need to spend another penny on vitamin or mineral supplements; you’ll get everything your body needs from the seasonal foods you eat.

But, here’s the thing: those “nutrient values” are a moving target of sorts. For example, in a recent post about the wonders of collard greens we stated a cooked cup of collards contains 250% of the RDA for Vitamin A. But whose cooked cup is that? Are the collards you get in your weekly veggie box equal to those found in the average grocery store? Or in the neighbor’s backyard garden?

Nutrient Values Vary Depending on How Your Veggies Are Grown

You see, who is growing your veggies – and how they grow those veggies, makes a tremendous difference in the nutritional values of the vegetables you eat. Case in point: The Tale of a Friendly Butternut Squash.

A recent post in Mother Earth News (a must-have subscription for those of you who love to garden, grow your own veggies and/or dream of creating a homestead), shares how different soil and growing conditions vastly altered the nutrients of butternut squash.

The “tester,” John Frank, works for International Ag Labs.  He made a point of gathering 29 different butternut squash from growers around the nation. The growers submitted information about their farming practices – from conventional to backyard organic.

The squash were each tested in a lab and compared with the current “nutrient values” for butternut squash as stated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Take a look below to see how vast the nutrient spread was between the lowest and highest scoring butternuts:

Nutrient                          Low Score                           USDA Level                        High Score

Protein (g)                           0.4                                         1.0                                           4.4

Calcium (mg)                       27                                           48                                           78

Phosphorous (mg)             23                                           33                                          166

Potassium (mg)                 282                                         352                                        1083

Magnesium (mg)                13                                            4                                             51


While the spread might not seem that extreme at first glance, keep in mind that the squash with the highest nutrient content had three-times higher values than the lowest-scoring squash, and that phosphorous (the second most important mineral when it comes to healthy bones and teeth) was found in seven-times higher concentration in the highest-scoring squash than the lowest-scoring squash.

Organic is good and biodynamic is even better

What Mr. Frank learned was that while organic farming is good, biodynamic farming is even better. It’s not surprising that all of the highest scoring butternuts were grown organically, so was the lowest scoring squash. That goes to show that while subtracting herbicides and pesticides is Step One in a health farming culture, concentrating on soil quality is absolutely crucial.

The highest scoring squash was grown by Doris and Calvin Bey, owners of Harmony Gardens in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Beys make it a priority to grow nutrient-rich veggies, and they do so by concentrating on healthy soil.

Your farmer’s soil is the food source for your food, so to speak. The nutrients and minerals in the soil are absorbed through plant roots and used to grow vibrant foliage and – hopefully – nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. Nutrient-rich soil means minerals that are balanced correctly. It also means that the soil is alive with microbes, worms, and mycorrhizae (fungus)  – all of which work in the soil to keep it fertile and energized.

So, the next time you visit your farmer’s market, start asking questions about how they farm and – more specifically – inquire as to what they do to nurture nutrient-rich earth. What do they do to keep their soil alive and energized? Do they rotate crops? Do they let chickens and pigs naturally till and fertilize the soil? Are they composting? As the Beys see it, “Meeting minimum organic standards give no assurance that the produce will be nutrient-dense.”

Looking for organic veggies that are grown with an emphasis on nutrient rich products? Sign up for a weekly CSA box from Golden Gate Organics. Your veggies never tasted so good.