Sunday, 21 April 2013

Living Food

No, this isn’t a blog entry about indulging in eating live oysters; this is about freshly picked “living” fruit and vegetables grown on soils rich in organic matter and abundant in life.

I used to work as a “professional” horticulturist growing vast acres of tomatoes on hydroponic systems. The plants were grown in sand and watered with solutions that contained all the necessary nutrients the plants could need.  Any weeds were controlled with weed killers and a weekly spraying of pesticides would keep the plants free of any bugs. Plants produced in this sterile lifeless environment might look good but I am sure they were lacking.

Hydroponic tomatoes in sterile lifeless conditions
Tomatoes growing in our vegetable garden with lots of life rich compost.
 Now I am a small scale organic grower and amongst other things I regularly mulch my vegetables. As I fork the compost around the plants I am amazed  to see all the different types of life crawling around; worms, centipedes, spiders and many insects I have no idea what they are. Then there is all the life in the compost and soil that you know is there but can’t see; fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes etc. All this life or “biotic mass” is present in our organic soil living in harmony with the plants and making an array of different organic compounds available to them. The soil looks so healthy and full of life, and so do our vegetables growing in it.

Healthy vegetables in a healthy soil
There are studies which say food produced in sterile hydroponic systems is as good for you as organic food. I don’t believe it! The problem is; on farms like ours with soils rich in organic material and full of life there are just so many different components present its difficult to understand how they all help to make a healthy crops. But what is for sure is that healthy living soils produce healthy living food and healthy living food produces healthy living people.

I often look with concern at salad packs with a 15 day shelf life sitting under a neon light on a supermarket shelf. The salad leafs were probably grown on a sterile soil dosed with pesticides and then packed in a bag with a modified atmosphere. Can that really be healthy eating? 

Freshly picked vegetables
 Here at the hotel I normally go to the vegetable garden about four o clock in the afternoon and pick the vegetables from our living soil. By eight o clock our team of cooks has prepared these vegetables into an array of delight full tasty salads and then the first guests start to serve themselves. 

The hotel salad buffet
Now that’s healthy eating.

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Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.