7-6-2013 10-03-56 AMWhat could be more important than the food that we serve our families? We all know that eating well-balanced, nutritious foods will support good health. So, how do we know that what we are eating is nourishing our bodies?

Do we simply look for produce that looks and smells good? As our community garden team has recently learned, it’s just not that easy.

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Healthy plants create complete proteins which contain high nutritional value. These complete proteins cannot be digested by insects, eliminating the need for use of chemical pesticides. Healthy soil containing proper levels of organisms and nutrients is the critical starting point for growing produce that will provide the healthy nutrition our bodies need to be healthy and fight illness. In a perfect world, this would be the way all produce was grown. Too often, poor farming practices deplete the soil which then grows produce having low nutritional value and increases the need for chemical pest control.

11-2-2012-3-26-11-PM2-300x202So how can we know the level of nutrition provided by the fruits and vegetables we buy or grow ourselves? I was recently introduced to a piece of equipment called a refractometer . Mr. Kevin Bryant of Turf Doctor, Inc. explained that a refractometer measures the brix of plant juices. Brix are a measure of the dissolved solids in the juice. The higher the brix value, the higher the nutrient content in your produce and the healthier they are for you.

Our team decided to put this to the test. We purchased a zucchini from a local produce market. Brix values for a zucchini are as follows: 6=poor, 10=good, 14=excellent. Our zucchini had a brix value of 2.8. This zucchini never would have made it to market without lots of pesticides to keep insects from devouring it first. In Mr. Bryant’s words, “We are starving ourselves with full bellies.”

If you’d like to learn more, our community garden team will be offering free educational opportunities to the public as the garden begins to take shape. We will learn more about how to prepare garden soil for optimum results, how to control pests naturally, how to measure the nutritional value of our produce, and more.

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Stick with us and together we’ll learn to grow a healthier community!
By: Lynne Hart

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