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Veganic; The new improved
organic gardening

Farming without using animal byproducts
BY
ANNA MAY KINNEY

 

We all know the basics behind organic gardening: NO chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, but few of us have ever heard of veganic gardening.

This method has been catching on with vegetarians around the world and while most organic gardeners willingly use such items as bone meal, blood meal, fish emulsion and manure, many are now questioning the safety of this practice.

Since Walkerton, we learned that manure produced at commercial livestock farms can seep into ground water and spread a deadly form of E. coli bacteria. Being there are few rules regulating the processing or sale of domestic manure, and degrees of processing (such as heating or aging) vary, some people believe there maybe an even greater potential contamination problem in consuming vegetables harvested out of fields covered with unhealthy manure.
 
Veganic advocates believe that the basics of gardening, including preparing and maintaining healthy soil; fertilizing plants with the right combination of nutrients; and protecting crops from pest and disease can all be accomplished without the use of animal byproducts.

Jim Oswald, the vegan co-founder of the Institute of Plant Based Nutrition in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania says, “The organic process has become a legal, government-sanctioned dumping ground for waste products from the slaughterhouse industry”.  An organic farmer himself since 1992 he says “If they can’t put it in a hot dog, they sell it to farmers.”

The leftovers that he is referring to are blood, bone, offal, hooves, horns and feathers not directly processed by slaughterhouses, but taken to rendering companies to be turned into material sold to commercial farms and gardening supply companies.
Blood is spray-dried and turned into meal, which is used as a fertilizer: bones are steamed to separate out any remaining collagen and flesh before being ground into bone meal powder that is spread on fields to add nitrogen. Fish-processing plants sell “squid juice” and other remains that are processed with sulfuric or phosphoric acid to create liquid emulsion or dried into meal for supplemental nitrogen.

Brian Leahy, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers, contends, “There’s no reason why you need to use any of these animal byproducts.” He’s avid about the use of so-called “green manure,” a plant-based source of nitrogen. Organic farmers have used “cover crops” for decades to replace nitrogen used up in normal vegetable farming.

This technique involves planting legumes, such as peas and beans, barley, clover or other plants alongside regular crops and turning them into the soil while
they’re at the flowering (at the point the produce the most nitrogen) stage so that they “feed” the crop to be harvested.

Besides the ethical implications of using slaughterhouse byproducts, faced by vegetarians, the bottom line is blood has a lot of other things in it, especially when coming from animals that have been pumped up with antibiotics.

The fear of something as dangerous as Mad Cow disease, being transmitted through the use of bone meal is being taken serious in Great Britain, where the Royal gardeners have been wearing facial masks whenever they have to spread bone meal around the Royal Roses.

Plant-based material offers the same nutrients as animal-based products, and they are as easy if not easier to obtain and use. The very best way to build up your soil’s quality and content is by using homemade compost. Compost provides the three key ingredients nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

The concept of compost dates back to Sir Albert Howard, a British governor in India, who helped pioneer the “Bangalore method” of layering freshly cut green vegetation with brown (dead leaves, etc.) to create an organic mix that is eaten by bacteria, which in turn are consumed by protozoa that excrete nitrogen to create nature’s perfect plant food. Earthworms, who eat the protozoa, improve soil by virtue of their waste as well as their natural aeration.

In regard to natural pest control, varganic gardeners say, let nature be nature, make your garden a hospitable place for snakes, toads, birds and other animals who normally feed on insects that can threaten your crops and they will take care of the insect before they become a problem.
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This week’s question comes from Montreal: This is my first year growing Jerusalem artichokes. Could you tell me of any other ways to prepare these roots, besides boiling them?

They can be peeled and cooked in any fashion you’d prepare potatoes, even frying or mashing them. The following is a wonderful, tasty recipe for artichoke soup. Serve either hot or cold.

1 pound (500 ml) Jerusalem artichokes
1 onion, finely chopped
 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
teaspoon ground thyme
teaspoon ground basil
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste
cup heavy cream
Peel the sunflower rhizomes and slice them thinly. Place them in a medium saucepan with the onions and stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered about 30 minutes.
 
Puree in a blender, pour back into saucepan and season to taste, stir in cream, and reheat on low/medium heat, without boiling. Garnish with minced cilantro or parsley. Remember this soup is fantastic in the summer, when served cold.
   

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