Anyone who grows food has come across the advice to use NPK on their soil: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, to make their plants grow well.
Think about that. If you grow sunflower seeds containing zinc, and use the NPK formula on the plants, after a few years there won’t be any further zinc and therefore the seeds won’t have any.
This demonstrates one of the fundamental problems with ‘conventional’ food growing. An interesting report (1) current crops showed a shocking loss of nutrient content, for which the NPK myth is largely responsible. Most people are nutrient deficient, and many common ailments such as low energy, poor immune function, arthritis and chronic fatigue are largely the result of bodies trying to function without the essential nutrients that power them.
There are a number of good ways to restore nutrients to the soil, and you can use one or all of them, and the benefits for the microorganisms results in stronger, healthier plants and later any animals in turn who eat them. Here are some ideas:
1) Growing perennial crops. These have time to grow deeper roots so they can bring up nutrients from the subsoil.(2) Nettles, comfrey and horseradish are but three examples, and the plants can be used as green manure or made into green tea and diluted as a top dressing.
2) Pasturing animals on perennial meadow – the old fashioned way. Give your animals a good green diet and then use their manure on your veg patch, and everything benefits.
3) Volcanic rock dust is unbelievably rich in nutrients, that’s why farmers always return to living under active volcanoes. You can buy VRD locally from the very knowledgeable David Wilkin at Pinetum Products in Highnam, and 18 months later you should see very satisfactory results.
4) Biochar – very trendy but nonetheless effective. Make charcoal, soak with nettle tea then spread. The results last for years, and you can keep adding until roses will grow on brickdust, wonderful! Or I just put all my winter veg offcuts in the oven, grind them up and spread everywhere, which has good results.
These are all natural ways to increase the amount of trace elements in plants, and then when people eat them they feel and function better. However, that isn’t the end of the story. We all are the descendants of hunter/gatherer tribes – very recently, really, from the point of view of our bodies, and we are accustomed to eat a very wide variety of meats and vegetables. Within recorded history this diet changed to the much more limited range of foods that we grew, and the number of food varieties has continued to contract until now the average child’s diet in UK consists of around 80% THREE foods: wheat, dairy foods and sugar. On such a diet there is no possibility of being entirely healthy. Without sufficient vitamin D, rickets is coming back, all of us in alternative health are seeing scurvy now (bleeding gums, tiredness, easy bleeding, painful joints); weakness and weariness often appear from lack of the B vitamins. We do little better with the minerals, and a surprisingly large proportion of modern diseases are simply curable by restoring desperately needed nutrients levels to the body.
There’s an interesting ‘urban myth’ that the original advice for diet issued to the Government was to eat not five but twelve portions of fruit and vegetables daily (Japan still recommends 13-17 portions a day), sadly but inevitably watered down in case people felt it would be too difficult, and of course the supermarket lobby group would not find such advice acceptable.
It’s actually not hugely expensive to eat a nourishing diet. It begins with forsaking the supermarkets and ready meals, boxed cereals and takeaways for fresh and nutritious organic food, and learning which minerals your family need to become and stay lively, energetic and well. Even severe problems like diabetes and arthritis are largely nutrient deficiency diseases, and usually respond to a wholesome diet. If you have ever wondered why we have so many chronic diseases in our sophisticated society, look at the wheat, the coke, chocolate, ready meals and other highly processed and denatured foods we are offered, and consider whether your great grandparents ate them. Good food is the first and best medicine, and it takes less than a week usually to demonstrate the difference. Try it and see!
Stella Berg is a Homoeopathic Healthcare Practitioner based in the Forest of Dean. She is also a lively and passionate contributor to the Food Hub. You can find out more about Stella and her work at http://www.homsapient.com
2The Carbon Fields, Graham Harvey