It’s been a good April and May – frequent rain showers to minimize hose watering and keep my +6,000 gal storage tanks fully topped. Lettuce, onions and garlic have grown well though the lettuce is now bolting. My lettuce, kale, chard and turnip greens taste real, they have a flavor missing from store bought greens, a lot of which are raised in greenhouses or insect free conditions. Now I am wondering if there is some advantage to eating kale, chard and turnip greens on which insects previously snacked. No aesthetic advantage to be sure but perhaps a nutritional advantage?
In the excellent Coursera course “What a plant Knows (and other things you didn’t know about plants)” given by D Chamowitz of Tel Aviv University, which I took in 2013, examples are given of how plants communicate with each other when they are attacked by insects and how the recipients of the warning produce increased levels of chemicals including toxic phenolic and tannic compounds to deter predators. See also his very readable book – “What a Plant Knows”. The focus was on how the signalling occurs including apparently smell (who knew plants could smell?). Of interest to me is whether the chemically enhanced plants are better for eating.
In “Eating on the Wild Side” the author Jo Robinson suggests (p. 30) that tearing up the lettuce before storing it increases its antioxidant value because the plant produces chemicals just as if it was being eaten by an insect or animal.
Which gets me back to my insect chewed vegetables – perhaps the reason they taste better is not only because they are freshly picked but also because they have endured and responded to chewing insects?
In the past 2 weeks I have removed lettuce which was bolting, seeded okra (a Southern treat which I eat raw from the plant), more onion bulbs (there can never be enough onions), and the three sisters – actually there are 4 – corn, squash, beans and peas (yes the local seed store said I could now plant peas). The apple trees are laden and my Giant Korean pear (prized above all other producers) has more pears than ever. My two hives look healthy though I am concerned about varroa mites. I haven’t checked and won’t use chemicals but varroa concern is large nationally and amongst local beekeepers. I planted about 50 tomato plants (mostly heirloom varieties though some hybrid) and if these do well, I will take them to market. Potato plants look healthy and include a few sweet potato, which vines I saved last year.
I still have all 11 chicken (1 rooster and 10 hens) and they look fine apart from some broody ones, which are isolated for a few days to recover, some mites, which I treat with diatomaceous earth, and some rats raiding the coop for food. Muscadines, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry all doing fine. Asparagus produced and is now mainly out of season. My one regret is I discontinued the strawberries which were so sweet in the past, something to consider for next year.