Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Yummy Vegetables Come from Soil Full of Goodies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Yummy Vegetables Come from Soil Full of Goodies

Article excerpt

Which tastes better, a tomato plucked from a vine whose roots plunge deep into humus-rich soil, or the same tomato grown in earth that has been enriched with Miracle-Gro or some other manufactured fertilizer?

It is a question that always stirs debate. Loyal Miracle-Gro gardeners proudly point to their successes; organic gardeners swear by their purist stance. Whichever camp is right, there is little doubt that the soil - a complex stew of tiny particles of sand, clay and organic material plus nutrients, ions and other good stuff - directly influences the flavor of fruits and vegetables.

French wine makers equate the subtleties of a particular vintage with the soil in which the grapes were grown: The most complex and highly prized wines inevitably come from grapes grown in the best soils.

Legendary Vidalia onions can be grown almost anywhere in the country, but only those pulled from the earth of Vidalia, Ga., taste so sweet that they can be crunched raw and fresh like an apple.

This is because the native soil in this pocket of east-central Georgia is particularly low in sulfur, the chemical that gives onions their bite.

Why do so many of our potatoes come from Idaho? The climate of that state happens to be ideally suited for growing the tubers, but without the rich dirt of Idaho the potatoes wouldn't thrive as they do.

Experts recognize three main factors that control flavor in vegetables: regional climate, plant ancestry and soil composition.

You can't control the climate, but you can select plants that are comfortable in it. The best course is to observe what does well locally or ask gardening friends for their opinions before obtaining seeds or plants.

A variety's bloodlines will determine flavor, too. We all know that commercial varieties are bred primarily for factors other than taste, such as their ability to ripen after harvest so a whole field can be harvested at once, or their thick-skinned resistance to bruising during shipping, or their long shelf life. Rarely is flavor the first consideration. …

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