First Place Award
for Highest Nutrient Dense Butternut Squash
for Highest Nutrient Dense Butternut Squash
“Why do you put so much emphasis on growing Nutrient Dense produce?” I get that question often and the answer is simple. Produce in most stores today is not nutrient dense, and those nutrients are critical for us if we are to regain and/or maintain our health.
In my organic (natural, biointensive) gardening classes we spend considerable time dealing with the nutrient dense concept. In a nutshell, to produce nutrient dense fruits and vegetables we need to go beyond just growing produce organically. By that I mean, just meeting minimum organic standards gives no assurance that the produce will be nutrient dense. The added dimension requires having available minerals in the soil in the right amounts and in the correct ratios, plus having an energized soil, with a soil food web that is alive and healthy.
My gardening practices are based on the John Jeavons Biointensive concepts and practices plus advice from International Ag Labs, and many others. Slowly over the years, I have moved forward on this front, gradually increasing the nutrient density (i.e. the Brix value) for everything in my garden. Beyond the fun of growing the vegetables, the real joy and value comes from eating produce that tastes better and better each year. I have just received verification that in general my “beyond organics” approach and my fertilizing recommendations (all of which I teach) are on the right track.
Here is the report from International Ag Labs with results on nutrient density levels for my 2012 Butternut Squash. The results below show the comparison of my squash with the USDA standard reference.
USDA Reference C.Bey Butternut Squash Deviation from USDA
Nutrients per 100 grams Nutrients per 100 grams Reference (percent)
Protein 1 g 2.7 +170
Calcium 48 mg 114.7 mg +139
Phosphorus 33 mg 104.4 mg +216
Potassium 352 mg 565.9 mg + 61
Magnesium 34 mg 49.8 mg + 46
Copper .07 mg .25 mg +257
Iron .70 mg .74 mg + 6
Zinc .15 mg 1.06 mg +607
Manganese .20 mg .11mg - 45
International Ag Labs is very involved in promoting nutrient dense vegetable production, and this entry was part of a 2012 International Ag Lab competition for growing nutrient dense butternut squash.
I am pleased to say that my squash was the First Place Winner. Although my squash contained minerals that were several times higher than the USDA composite sample, I think there is potential for still higher mineral content. Many factors contribute to growing nutrient dense produce.
It is interesting to note that my soil test from International Ag Lab for this year shows manganese to be very low, the only mineral that was low in my butternut squash.
Go to the International Ag Lab website www.aglabs.com for a detailed report on all the entries in the contest. Here is a brief overview of results.
Rank ND Score Name
1 132.8 Calvin F. Bey Fayetteville, AR -- Roughly 37% ABOVE the ND standard
4 96.6 Nutrient Dense Standard
22 61.7 USDA composite sample --Roughly 37% BELOW the ND standard
A Green Bean Example: Here is an example comparing a local market bean with a backyard garden bean. The Brix level of neither is especially high. Brix level readings for beans can range from 4 to 10. This was reported in the June 2007, Acres U.S.A. magazine by Jon Frank.
Element Rating or Content
Measured Sample #1 Sample #2
Brix Level 4.2 6.1
Dry Matter 8.1% 16.6%
Protein 1.75 g 3.34 g
Calcium 70 mg 130 mg
Magnesium 30 mg 50 mg
Phosphorus 40 mg 80 mg
Potassium 190 mg 580 mg
Copper 0.1 mg 0.4 mg
Iron 1.3 mg 2.1 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg 2.3 mg
Manganese 0.29 mg 0.35 mg
What is striking here is that just by going from Brix readings of 4.2 to 6.1 made a big difference in nutrition levels. In most cases, the nutrient levels more than doubled. Moving up to a Brix level of 10 would certainly make additional nutritional gains.
What Is Associated With A High-Brix Reading? When you grow nutrient dense produce you can expect other things to also change. Here are some of the major factors associated with high Brix readings.
* Greater carbohydrates for better metabolic function.
* Greater mineral density, e.g. increased calcium and more trace minerals such as copper, iron and manganese. Trace minerals function as the co-enzymes in the digestive process.
* Better taste. Taste is built on the carbohydrate and mineral levels in the produce.
* Increased shelf life. Dr. Reams, the pioneer on studying nutrient dense produce, took the same watermelon to the State Fair, three years in a row.
* Increased insect and disease resistance. Plants in poor health emit an electro-magnetic frequency that draws in insects. This is not true of healthy plants. Nature designed insects to get rid of poor quality plants that are susceptible to disease. Professor of Agronomy, an eminent soil scientist, William Albrecht put it this way, “Insects and disease are the symptoms of a failing crop, not the cause of it. It’s not the over-powering invader we must fear but the weakened condition of the victim.”
- Animals prefer nutrient dense crops. Animals have a higher sense of instinct than do humans. In controlled studies, they go after the more nutritious, non-GMO, pesticide-free produce.
In my organic (natural) gardening class we will discuss 10 concepts and practices (guidelines) that lead to high Brix produce. Follow the guidelines and your garden will evolve to a higher state, growing vegetables that remind you of those with flavors that your grandmother grew.