Certified organic fruit, vegetables and legumes may not be suitable for a vegan diet. This is a bold statement. Many may be shocked to hear this since a vegan diet consists of plant based foods, exclusively.
Certainly, organic certification will guarantee the best quality produce without the use of harmful pesticides and is much better for the environment, but is it "animal product free"?
It is the way these crops are cultivated that puts into question how well they fit into the vegan ethos.
Vegans choose to avoid animal products for a variety of reasons, such as health, environmental, ethical or spiritual concerns. Vegans not only avoid consuming meat, they also shun dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin as well as non-edible products like lanolin, fur, wool and silk.
Should the line be blurred then, when it comes to the use of animal waste products as well?
This is where the practice of organic gardening comes into question. The majority of organic farmers and gardeners will use animal manures and fertilizers like blood and bone to enrich their soil naturally.
This is supplemented by regular doses of liquid fish emulsion to feed the plant as it grows. All these techniques are routinely and commonly used for organic plant culture.
So where does this leave the vegan gardener who wants to do the best for the environment and not be exposed to harmful chemical pesticides at the same time?
Edible plants consume vast amounts of nutrients so they need a rich fertile soil to grow well. If we are to get the best health benefits from a plant based diet then the plants themselves need to be nutrient dense.
But how do you gain high levels of soil fertility without the use of animal products?
The answer lies in using plants themselves. A "green manure" crop is planted specifically for the purpose of replenishing the soil and adding nutrients for the next crop to be grown in that same soil.
The choice of plants is important for green manuring. A legume will add nitrogen to the soil as it grows and a grain crop will add bulk when dug back into the soil to improve its structure and rectify drainage problems over time.
Additional minerals are gained through natural sources of rock dust. Rock dust simulates the weathering process and adds minerals that would normally be deposited over many hundreds of years, even thousands.
Valuable micro-organisms feed off the minerals in the soil and they, in turn, help plants to take up nutrients for stronger growth.
So vegan organic gardeners can have the confidence of "animal free" by growing their own produce and controlling input. Start by growing a green manure in the veggie patch during the season before planting edible crops.
Dig this into the soil when it gets to the desired height. Add some of your own home made compost and sprinkle over a handful of rock dust, then let this settle. After a few weeks your soil will be ready for planting out your next season's veggies.
A liquid fertilizer can be made from herbs and weeds and will keep your plants growing happily throughout the season. Seaweed solutions can also help promote strong growth and protect against pest and disease.
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