Michael Tortorello of the New York Times has an interesting piece this week about aquaponics…in other words, growing your vegetables in fish water rather than soil.
Some of the hobby farmers Tortorello interviewed brag about the incredible yields they get from fish droppings. And I'm all for any kind of farming that takes advantage of the miraculous plant/animal/human cycle of life, where we all wind up feeding each other.
But growing vegetables without soil…that I am very suspicious of. There are so many different organisms in the smallest bit of garden soil that scientists strain to describe its biodiversity. And these creatures are so intricately interconnected that scientists can't manage even to culture many of them in the lab.
You can't convince an old dirt-lover like me that every one of these organisms doesn't contribute something essential to the taste of my produce. So yeah, you might get great yields on nothing more than the excreted nitrogen of goldfish. But the question is, how's the flavor? Where's the perfume?
One of my country neighbors has built a thriving hydroponics business in tomatoes, basil, and cilantro. And I do buy his basil in the winter, when I have no other choice. But I have to confess, it tastes like nothing with a hint of basil…like a frustrating dream of basil. Not like the real thing.