Pollinators Improve Nutritional Content of Fruits and Vegetables

Most of my blog posts are about growing fruits or vegetables. I am an advocate for growing your own produce when possible. Growing your own vegetables puts you in charge of any herbicides or pesticides used, empowering you to be your own organic farmer. You can grow healthier versions of your favorite produce by choosing nutritionally superior selections such as deeply colored lettuce or dark strains of heirloom tomatoes. Growing your own may increase your access to and abundance of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, you can save money by not paying organic prices by growing your own organic produce.

While I am an advocate for growing vegetables, I also advocate for growing flowers. In fact, I intersperse flowers in my backyard farm among my fruits and vegetables. Growing flowers with your fruits and vegetables can add a bit of rustic beauty and charm to a vegetable garden. Growing flowers also attracts pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Attracting pollinators into your garden can be relaxing while watching them flutter from flower to flower, looking for a treat.

Flowers reward pollinators with a gift such as a sweet nectar. Nectar is rich in different types of sugars such as sucrose, glucose, or fructose. However, the rewards offered by flowers to pollinators are not limited to sugar infused nectar. Other rewards may include pollen or substances such as wax, oil, or perfume which may also benefit the pollinator. For example, some bees use the perfume from flowering plants as a sexual attractant. Bees and butterflies tend to be more active as pollinators when the weather is warm and dry. Hummingbirds on the other hand are active in all weather, including cold and wet weather.

Pollinators benefit other plants, including fruits and vegetables. Evidence suggests pollination affects the nutritional value of food. An analysis based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, finds that just over one-third of overall crop output comes from plants whose fruit or vegetable production increases with animal pollination. An example of how pollination can improve the nutritional value of food is an experiment which found that strawberries that were pollinated by bees were redder, firmer, and heavier compared to those that were pollinated by wind or were self-pollinated. These attributes led to a longer shelf life and higher market value. Another example is a study which found that apples that were pollinated by animals had a higher calcium content compared to those that were not pollinated by animals.

In closing, organic practices benefit not only human health, but also animal health. By eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides, you are supporting the health of pollinators in your garden. Studies demonstrate that organic gardening supports more pollinators than conventional gardening practices. You can enhance the nutritional value of the foods in your garden by attracting more pollinators. How about growing some flowers at the end of your vegetable rows? Perhaps you could hang some flowering hanging baskets near your vegetables? Be creative and have fun!

The Nurse Farmer ™

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