The weather has just been fantastic in Joburg lately, with mostly hot, sunny days! And you can’t help but admire all the beautiful jacarandas, or the colourful flowers that have popped up everywhere. And if you’re home gardener, there’s nothing quite as special as a homegrown tomato, or a freshly picked strawberry, straight out of your garden. With so much going on above the ground, it can be easy to overlook what’s going on underneath the ground, in the soil below, where all the magic happens!
Healthy soil is full of life, literally. One teaspoon of the good stuff is said to contain more than a million tiny living creatures – bacteria, microbes, fungi, worms and bugs. And these organisms make the magic happen – they work together to sustain the delicate balance of nutrients in the soil. As plant matter (leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit) fall to the ground, and animals, birds and insects ferret through, these organisms use what is left above them, to turn the soil they live in into a nutrient dense, healthy environment, where they, and everything around them, thrives. And you don’t see us needing to water the forests, or pull out weeds – this natural ecosystem is wonderfully self-sustaining. But what does that mean for us? Healthy soil is also rich in nutrients and minerals, and plants get all their nutrients from the soil they’re grown in. And, the primary source of all nutrients for people comes from the food we eat, mainly fruits & veggies. And so healthy soil means healthy plants and healthy people.
However, farming can upset the natural balance of the soil. When we farm, we take from the soil, but if we don’t replenish, we start to strip the mineral nutrients from the soil and we slowly starve the organisms that live in the soil. It’s the law of return – if we don’t restore fertility, the soil will suffer. And commercial farmers start an unhealthy cycle of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs that continue to disrupt this natural ecosystem, instead of trying to replenish it. By upsetting this natural balance, farming has contributed to a decline in soil health, with soils lacking in essential micronutrients. As a result, many of the fruits & veggies we eat today, are not as nutritional as they should be, and so even when we try our best to eat a healthy variety of fruits and vegetables, we are not always getting all the essential nutrients our bodies need.
Farmers that are trying to grow more organically understand that a healthy crop starts with healthy soil, and that they need to constantly work on replenishing the soil, with natural fertilizers, compost and manures, crop rotation, mulching and interplanting. By feeding the soil, organic farmers work to restore the natural balance, and stand a better chance of producing fruits and veggies that are higher in the nutrients and minerals they should naturally have. Keep in mind that organically farmed fruits and veggies may still have nutrient deficiencies, as soil health is something that takes years to restore. It requires patience, commitment, and a passion for a more sustainable world.
Choosing to buy more organically grown fruits and veggies is a good place to start when trying to eat a little healthier, and it is a more sustainable option, as it supports organic farmers, and is kinder on our planet. It’s also important to eat with the seasons, as seasonal produce is at its nutritional peak. But this is only the starting point when it comes to soil health, and Dan Barber (farm-to-table advocate & renowned chef) encourages a more holistic view, if we are to truly understand and embrace healthy soil.
Here at The Munching Mongoose, we believe in helping you lead a healthier, happier and more sustainable life. We strive to support local, small-scale, organic farmers, so all the fruits and veggies in your boxes are organically grown. We also believe in fair pay, making sure all the hard-working farmers are getting what they deserve. Our boxes are also designed to help you eat more seasonally, with a selection of the best seasonal produce for you to enjoy. Interested in ordering a box? Visit The Market for more information.