How to Improve Fruit Taste
The question on every gardener’s mind is what do my plants (especially fruit trees and vegetables) need?
Recently I wrote a post where I mentioned Azomite. Bob, Michelle and Sam have asked, “Do I need to add Azomite to my existing fruit trees? Where do you buy it,…” and David asked the important question of “Is adding Azomite a sustainable practice and what are the other options?” Thank you all for reading and asking.
The Short Answer
Azomite is a rock dust mined from ancient dry lake beds in Utah. It helps increase the level of nutrients stored in fruits and vegetables and as a result, improves the nutritional value as well as the taste of fruits and vegetables.
You can buy it at any good organic nursery or farm supply store.
The practice of mining rock dust from Utah for use in our gardens is anything but sustainable. The alternative is to add homemade compost that was made using lots of organic kitchen peelings.
While we do not fully understand the complex interaction of plants and soil, scientists have proven that plants must access 16 chemical elements (13 minerals and 3 non-minerals) for growth and reproduction.
For example, if you look at the label on a bag of fertilizer, you will see a listing for NPK content, nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K), which are considered macronutrients (primary elements) because the plants use a lot of these elements and they are not always present in sufficient quantities in the soil.
Besides macronutrients, plants also need calcium (Ca) magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) which collectively are called micronutrients (secondary elements) because sufficient quantities of them are usually present in the soil, so the gardener does not need to add these minerals regularly.
In addition to the above macro and micronutrients, plants need boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), chloride (Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo) and zinc (Zn). These elements are required at minute levels and therefore are called trace minerals.
Levels in Balance
A reasonable question to ask is, “Why not put a lot of everything (all the elements) on the soil and let the plants sort out what’s needed?” (That’s what the fertilizer industry would like you to believe.)
The answer is that in order for nutrients to be available to the plants, plants need their nutrients in relative concentration.
Law of the Minimum
The Law of the Minimum, states that yield and the level of nutrients in your fruits and vegetables are proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient, whichever nutrient it may be. In other words, as Justus von Liebig discovered two centuries ago, “The most growth-limiting nutrient will limit growth, no matter how favorable the nutrient supply of other elements.”
A simple analogy is water-holding capacity of a wooden barrel with a broken stave. The maximum level of liquid that a broken barrel can hold is up to the top of the lowest stave. A dusting of a products like Azomite ensures that the trace minerals, which are difficult to measure in the soil, do not become the limiting nutrients.
Taste is a subjective matter, but in general we enjoy fruit that is sweet, with pleasant aroma and complex flavors. The one factor that we can measure is the level of sugar in fruits and vegetables. It is proven that fruits grown in balanced organic soil contain higher levels of sugar and higher levels of nutrients, than fruits grown in industrial farm soil that is optimized for rapid growth but not nutrients. While higher sugar makes for a sweeter fruit, higher levels of minerals produces a more complex taste. That is why successful wine makers monitor many factors, including the mineral content of their soil, carefully.
You may be shocked to see the difference in the nutrient content of an apple grown on an industrial farm in China, versus the same apple grown in a well balanced, backyard soil.
You don’t need me to tell you that mining the ancient lake beds of Utah for rock dust for gardening purposes in California (or anywhere else) is not a sustainable practice.
You can provide trace minerals, and many other benefits, to your plants with the application of a well-made compost that has a lot of kitchen peelings, as long as the kitchen peelings are from organic fruits and vegetables.