River
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Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

Okay this may sound nuts, but I will ask anyway. I realize that when we use organic/inorganic fertilizers they are all chemicals utilized by the plant. So our food should not be influenced correct?

I am thinking about using an organic product which I used this past summer for a nitrogen boost for some okra. The Alaskan liquid fish fertilizer. My broccoli is starting to form small heads.
Some of the plants are a bit behind in growth, and I thought it might not hurt to give them a shot of the liquid.

When I used it on the okra the pods weren't forming quite yet. Again I realize this question sounds a bit off, but this summer when I picked some of my cherry tomatoes growing in the pots where I do use miracle grow it seemed like I was tasting something out of the norm

The broccoli is in the ground and not in pots
Mobile al zone 8b

imafan26
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

As far as plants are concerned they really don't care what form the nutrients come in. Synthetics are actually ready to use in a form that is readily available to plants while organic fertilizers need to be converted into useable form by the soil microorganizms.

I you are gardening organically for less than three years or your soil wasn't that ideal to start with, the plants will be a lot smaller. On the other hand if you use synthetic fertilizers you have to make sure you don't over do it.

Taste wise, soil, climate, cultural practices, and cultivar seem to be more important than what kind of fertilizer you use.

When I grew plants more organically, they were smaller but healthier (provided I chose the right cultivars for my area) but I got better size and yield with synthetic fertilizers. Things like Vidalia onions won't taste the same grown somewhere else because of the differences in soil and climate. If I water my tomatoes too much or the papayas get too much rain the fruit does not taste as good. Papayas get mealy until they dry out and tomatoes are watery and bland.

I did have to put in a lot more volume with organics. I do compost in either case but I had to use 2-3 times more organic fertilizer than synthetic and I had to put the organics in much earlier so the nutrients would be available. I also had to supplement more with the organic fertilizer with fish emulsion. Organic in pots did not always work out well. Plants were small and the compost in the pots caused me problems with soil that was too wet. Potted plants had to be given compost tea and fish emulsion weekly and the plants were still small and there were fewer fruit by comparison.

When I tried to do organic only in the herb garden which had a fungal based alkaline soil, some plants could not grow at all because of the alkalinity and most of the plants were shorter than they should have been. Even green manures and inoculants did not give me any lasting improvement. I continue to add compost to the garden despite the fact that is has a pH of7.8, but I do add sulfate of ammonia and some slow release fertilizer comes with the transplanted plants. Nitrogen and pH buffering (sulfur) were the only things the garden was deficient in. The other nutrients are in the high or very high range.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

imafan26
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

As far as plants are concerned they really don't care what form the nutrients come in. Synthetics are actually ready to use in a form that is readily available to plants while organic fertilizers need to be converted into useable form by the soil microorganizms.

I you are gardening organically for less than three years or your soil wasn't that ideal to start with, the plants will be a lot smaller. On the other hand if you use synthetic fertilizers you have to make sure you don't over do it.

Taste wise, soil, climate, cultural practices, and cultivar seem to be more important than what kind of fertilizer you use.

When I grew plants more organically, they were smaller but healthier (provided I chose the right cultivars for my area) but I got better size and yield with synthetic fertilizers. Things like Vidalia onions won't taste the same grown somewhere else because of the differences in soil and climate. If I water my tomatoes too much or the papayas get too much rain the fruit does not taste as good. Papayas get mealy until they dry out and tomatoes are watery and bland.

I did have to put in a lot more volume with organics. I do compost in either case but I had to use 2-3 times more organic fertilizer than synthetic and I had to put the organics in much earlier so the nutrients would be available. I also had to supplement more with the organic fertilizer with fish emulsion. Organic in pots did not always work out well. Plants were small and the compost in the pots caused me problems with soil that was too wet. Potted plants had to be given compost tea and fish emulsion weekly and the plants were still small and there were fewer fruit by comparison.

When I tried to do organic only in the herb garden which has a fungal based alkaline soil, some plants could not grow at all because of the alkalinity and most of the plants were shorter than they should have been. Even green manures and inoculants did not give me any lasting improvement. I continue to add compost to the garden despite the fact that is has a pH of 7.8, but I do add sulfate of ammonia and some slow release fertilizer does comes with the transplanted plants. Nitrogen and pH buffering (sulfur) were the only things the garden was deficient in. The other nutrients are in the high or very high range. Poor drainage keeps the garden alkaline and fungal based and I have tried to raise the beds as much as possible and I am forced to grow mostly annuals. Very few plants can handle the wet soil once the roots go deeper than 10 inches.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Gary350
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

The soil you plant in gives your vegetables their flavor. I have lived in 4 different States, MI, IL, TN, AZ. Arizona soil tastes like baking soda 8 ph and so did the tomatoes, beans, squash and other things I grew unless I put acid in the soil and water. Illinois vegetables were better than TN. TN soil is low of organic material, high in clay, low in plant food so my tomatoes flavor is good but fertilizer and lime makes the flavor noticeable better. I use pellet lime and 15-15-15 fertilizer. A little nitrogen fertilizer is helpful too for some plants.

theforgottenone1013
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

Doubt that the type of fertilizer used will make a difference in taste. Only way I could see it happening is if you got the fertilizer on the part you ate. Which would obviously make it taste funny.

-Rodney

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applestar
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

Well, I think ultimately, yes, fertilizer can influence the flavor, but maybe not directly?

Flavor of vegetables and fruits does vary and sometimes significantly better or worse -- or simply different -- depending on variety. That much is obvious if you try growing different varieties in your garden where all other growing factors are the same.

You also need to be aware of and learn the OPTIMUM stage to harvest and -- uh uh -- WHEN to actually eat the harvest (that means best way to store until then) and HOW to prepare into tastiest food. :D

Healthy vigorous plants will generally produce larger or many more harvestable parts -- leaves, root, fruits.

But "healthy vigorous" doesn't just equate to good flavor -- nor is it simply dictated by the size of the plant or number of leaves. Or size or number of fruits. So optimum care, balanced fertilizer or source of nutrients, and don't forget the micro nutrients and minerals.

Then there is the interaction of microbes in the soil and air and on the foliage and fruits.

...then it all comes back to YOUR particular sense of taste and preference. :wink:
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jal_ut
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

So if you use, " The Alaskan liquid fish fertilizer." will the okra taste like fish?
YES!
If you use cow manure for fertilizer will the okra taste like cow manure?
YES!

Just kidding. Okra has no flavor. Why not plant something edible? Peppers? Butternut Squash? Beans?
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

imafan26
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

I actually like okra once I got over the sliminess. It does have a subtle flavor and it is great for thickening soups. I plant a lot of hot peppers, not so much beans and squash, they take up a lot of space. I have 9 beans on my tomato trellis right now and I should have beans any day now. I have planted butternut squash but it takes up a lot of space and does not produce that much fruit. If I am going to have a space hog, I rather plant gourds, I get a better yield and are easier to peel. I do grow some butternut though because I really like it. Butternut and kabocha can share the same space. I just let the vines grow on top of each other, but it does take up one whole partierre (10x10 space) and I have to keep bringing in the wayward vines. If you have a lot of space it does not matter but when space is limited, you have to make choices.

I do agree with Applestar that taste is a matter of personal preference.

I have to say that I find organic produce to have more insect holes in them and to be smaller but not necessarily taste better than conventional produce. Hydroponic produce is usually bigger, less pest damage and 'prettier', but I find it blander than soil grown. I don't think any of them taste like fertilizer.
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sepeters
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

Different types of fertilizers don't seem to have much effect on the taste of anything I have grown, as yet. Environmental factors and amount of fertilizer will play a much bigger role. If you water tomatoes too much close to harvest they won't taste as good and if the plants are nutrient deficient the will produce less and the fruit won't be very flavorful. Keep in mind that you're gonna have to apply that fish fertilizer way more often than synthetics and that it is not balanced, so you may want to supplement a P-K as well, but not as often. : )

I use the same brand of fish fert (there's nothing quite like the smell of emulsified fish in the morning...) and usually only fertilize my okra at half strength once or twice in the growing season. It's nearly impossible to burn a plant with fish fertilizer, but I noticed the okra will drop more leaves than usual if I fertilize it full strength. The pods will be plumper and have better flavor if they get a lot of water. I live in central AZ and water mine at least once a day (okra is a mid-summer to early-autumn crop here) and that small amount of fertilizer is still enough.

Good luck!

imafan26
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

I used to use fish fertilizer more but the neighbors complained about the smell, so I use it mostly when I think I have a nutrient deficiency I cannot figure out. Fish emulsion is a complete organic fertilizer. Plants can be burned by it, but it is hard to do. I did not kill anything, but I did damage a few leaves a couple of times. I does have to be used weekly and results are not as quick or as big as Miracle grow. Plants don't need a lot of phosphorus and if you are using compost and bonemeal in your soil you don't have to supplement that as much. In fact, I try to use low or zero phosphorus fertilizers whenever I can because most of my plots have too much already.

I use mostly slow release fertilizers now. I have even burned plants with that. It is easier to apply since they are dry fertilizers and they are good for at least 3 months.

Sustane is an organic fish based fertilizer with an NPK 4-6-4. It still smells fishy but not as bad as fish emulsion. At least it doesn't attract cats and flies. It lasts 3-4 weeks and no mixing required. If you want more phosphorus you can mix 2 parts sustane with one part bonemeal.

I have even used organic lawn fertilizer, it is mostly cottonseed and feather meal. Its' NPK is 11-2-2. It still costs a third more than conventional fertilizer. It provides slow release nitrogen with very low amounts of phos and potassium. Blood meal is the highest N but the most expensive to use. This is slow nitrogen so good for maintenance, but not for a quick boost.
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Gary350
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

Did you ever notice if you grow vegetables in soil that has no food value for plants vegetables are very low in flavor.

I took an agriculture class in school and learned soil nutrients can be locked up so plants can not use it. Lime unlocks the nutrients in soil. Lime does not add flavor it released nutrients that adds flavor.

Fertilizer is additional nutrients.

imafan26
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

Plants in poor soil not only don't taste good, they are small, yellow, usually because of the stress they are prime targets for bugs that further stresses them.

It is true if the soil nutrients are not balanced nutrients become unavailable and excesses in some nutrients will have a deleterious effect on others especially micros which shows up as yellowing and chlorosis. Starving plants usually don't do or taste good.

It is also a good reason to do a soil test initially and every few years just to make sure the soil stays balanced and nutrients especially phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, and nitrogen do not become excessive. They can tie up other nutrients, impact pH, and have an effect on how the plants grow and ultimately taste. Excessive use of fertilizer from any source including organic can run off and contaminate the ground and surface water. This is what was happening where animals were farmed intensively. Their manure was building up in piles and when it rained, it washed off into rivers, streams and seeped into the ground water and caused contamination downstream. The contamination caused outbreaks of disease and overgrowth of algae. Once it got into lakes and oceans, the excess nutrients caused algae blooms that reduced the light and oxygen getting in the water and ultimately killing fish. What goes round, comes around.

Besides, with a soil test you will probably save money only adding what the plants actually need and they will probably do and taste better. Planting scavenger crops to sop up excess nitrogen and to clean up the soil keeps the soil a lot healthier.
https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/nutpollution.html
https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/algal_bloom.htm
https://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/ffarms.asp
https://soiltest.umass.edu/fact-sheets/ ... emediation
https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Boo ... d-Mustards
https://www.ncagr.gov/SWC/costshareprogr ... r_crop.pdf
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can fertilizers influence the taste of food

"Lime releases nutrients that add flavor"

Lime releases nutrients IF AND ONLY IF your soil is acidic enough that the acid is locking up the nutrients. At pH below 6.0 NPK tend to be in indissoluble forms that the plant cannot access. In that case, adding "lime" will increase the pH and release the nutrients.

Likewise, high pH can lock up nutrients, though different ones. At a pH above 7.5, iron, manganese, and phosphorus are less available. In that case, adding lime would just make the situation worse.

Whether adding/releasing more nutrients improves the flavor is a complicated question:
It is proven that fruits grown in balanced organic soil contain higher levels of sugar and higher levels of nutrients, than fruits grown in industrial farm soil that is optimized for rapid growth but not nutrients. While higher sugar makes for a sweeter fruit, higher levels of minerals produces a more complex taste. That is why successful wine makers monitor many factors, including the mineral content of their soil, carefully.
https://www.theurbanfarmers.org/how-to-i ... uit-taste/
Nutrition and Flavor:
Chemical fertilizers produce fruits and vegetables with lower nutritional value and less flavor. ...The lack of trace elements in chemical fertilizers not only means an increase incidence of plant diseases, but it also means there is less nutrition from the fruits and vegetables for the consumer. Trace minerals are an important component of healthy nutrition. The lack of trace elements in chemical fertilizers not only means an increase incidence of plant diseases, but it also means there is less nutrition from the fruits and vegetables for the consumer. Trace minerals are an important component of healthy nutrition. ... As for flavor, most everyone will agree there’s no comparison between the taste of fruits and vegetables grown organically and those grown chemically.
This improved flavor is probably due to the superior nutritional content, including trace minerals, of organically grown plants.
https://www.monroeworks.com/organic-fert ... izers.html

Note that none of this is providing any data. Therefore think of it all as opinion. Fertilizer vendors usually claim that their products improve the taste of your veggies, but that is marketing. I think it is an open question and the answer (as for most gardening questions) is likely to be it depends. Whether adding nutrients improves the flavor of your fruits and veggies surely depends on what nutrients, how much, how and when added, what the condition of the soil was before they were added etc. It may also depend on temperatures at the time of adding, moisture content of the soil, etc.

Also "improving" the flavor is a subjective judgement. If the first quote is right, then increasing the organic richness of your soil may make your tomato fruits sweeter. But some people like their tomatoes sweet and some people like them tart. So they would judge differently whether the flavor had been improved. These are not easy questions to answer....

However it is clear that it is not a simple direct process... adding fish emulsion to the soil does NOT make your veggies taste fishy. The only way that would happen is if you were spraying fish emulsion on to something like lettuce, say as a foliar feed. Then there might still be particles of fish emulsion on the lettuce leaves you were eating. That stuff is difficult to rinse off, being oily. IN THAT CASE (only), your lettuce could taste fishy.
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