I recently received an email from writer Deborah Madison asking, “What do you think makes for good flavor in vegetables? Why is it the organic carrots I buy from my dearly-loved co-op are nearly tasteless, and the gnarly old things I pull out of my garden is delicious?”
A book could be (and is needed) on this topic. Here’s my short reply.
(the taste and aroma properties of a food)
There are many components contributing to flavor in vegetables, including:
• Fertility – soil type, nitrogen, and mineral levels
• Water – soil type, rain, and irrigation
• Freshness and Post-Harvest Handling and Aroma
• Maturity at Harvest
• Growing Temperature
Starting with fertility, excess nitrogen causes a plant to grow too fast, the cells grow larger and thinner and weaker and less flavorful. Slow release fertility, such as compost and decomposing soil-building crops, produce better flavor than water-soluble nitrogen from a synthetic source. Chemical fertilizers, and pesticides can also bring bitterness into the food.