The Inconvenient Truth about Vegetables.  

The truth exists, literally and whatever we think or say about it doesn't change that. Conversely that which isn't true doesn't exist and no amount of posturing, arguing or preaching from a pulpit will change that either.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.    Attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 - 1860  

What you are about to read will fit the above like a glove, the scorn and derision that will be heaped upon it I cannot imagine but truth eventually comes to the surface, at a guess in 2050 it will become 'self evident' so this is one of those rare plausible glimpses into the future.

We had a demonstration of this principle with the smoking of cigarettes, everyone who smoked thought themselves to be cool as the 'Marlborough Man' and when it was declared that smoking causes lung cancer and many other health issues it was greeted with howls of derision. As time wore on and the statement gained credibility then came the huge campaigns by the tobacco lobby to discredit the statement but finally it became 'self evident' and now the truth of it is accepted even by those unfortunate souls who still smoke.

from a food perspective.

Mankind is fortunate to possess a digestive system that tolerates an incredible range of foods that really aren't ideal for our health and well being, many in common usage today are in fact downright harmful. If this weren't so we would have become extinct many 10s of 1000s of years ago as our ideal food sources haven't always been available thanks to worldwide catastrophes and climate variability. Our body's overwhelmingly No 1 requirement is blood sugar, glucose, dextrose or whatever name you like to call it. The best source of it is fruit which requires no laborious digestion and is delivered from the stomach to the intestinal tract for absorption in less than an hour. Everything else has to be digested in the stomach for at least 4 hours, digestion really means the extraction or manufacture of glucose from that which was eaten. The average 75 Kg person has a mere (100 mg/dL) 5 grams of it in his blood and it is constantly being used, replenished and maintained at that level - or we die. Our brain uses 20% of our blood glucose.

Protein, chemically, is glucose with nitrogen added to the molecule which acts as a preservative so it can be stored, in this case throughout the body for later processing. The body makes many things from protein like amino acids but primarily the glucose is extracted and the nitrogen in the form of nitrates, is disposed of in urine, at least as much of it as possible.

The cell walls of all vegetables are made of a protein called cellulose and this protein is foreign to mankind. All the four hoofed grazing animals are endowed with an enzyme called cellulase, this and special gut bacteria break down that protein coating allowing the release of the important nutrients within the cell. Man doesn't have this enzyme so we have great difficulty accessing those nutrients, vegetables are touted as providing roughage and that is inescapably true.

Some years ago a study was done in Europe on carrots and what we get from them. First they calculated what the total nutrients were in a carrot and of this total if someone ate one by chewing it twice as much as normal they got 4% of them. By grating and chewing extensively they got 6%. Juicing delivered 12% to 14%. By putting it into a blender at high speed for ½ an hour they managed to get 44%. Presumably the blender blades physically smashed through many of the cells cellulose walls and released the nutrients inside. A horse on the other hand can swallow the carrot whole and get almost 100% of the nutrients because he has the appropriate enzymes.

It's all very well in a laboratory with an atomic spectrometer or some such, to figure out the total nutrients in a vegetable and promote sales on that basis, where, in order to analyze a sample for its mineral constituents, it has to be atomized thus breaking all the cell walls and releasing trillions of atoms per cell. It's another thing entirely to figure out how much we actually get under normal circumstances, short answer, thanks to us not having the cellulase enzyme, not much.

Generations of false assumptions make it easy to think that all the above is utter rubbish but has this to say

Despite the fact that humans (and many other animals) cannot digest cellulose (meaning that their digestive systems cannot break it down into its basic constituents), cellulose is nonetheless a very important part of the healthy human diet. This is because it forms a major part of the dietary fiber that we know is important for proper digestion (that part is conditional on what was eaten). Since we cannot break cellulose down and it passes through our systems basically unchanged, it acts as what we call bulk or roughage that helps the movements of our intestines. Among mammals, only those that are ruminants (cud chewing animals like cows and horses) can process cellulose. This is because they have special bacteria and microorganisms in their digestive tracts that do it for them. They are then able to absorb the broken-down cellulose and use its sugar as a food source.”

We are surrounded by the facts but we just won't 'see' them. It is easier to believe a lie told 1000 times than a fact heard only once. The author has done a ten year stint without eating even a solitary lettuce leaf with no ill effects, in fact even to this day 12 years later, I dread being in the predicament where good fruit isn't available and I have to resort eating &@!$# vegetables.

Ellyn Satter’s book “Child of Mine” says Fruits and vegetables carry the same nutrients, so a child can be well-nourished on either” except that the child will get less than 10% of the vegetable's nutrients whereas it can get 100% of whatever the fruit might contain. The book goes on “Many many great nutritionists offer a similar reassurance to parents who worry about their child’s aversion to vegetables.

That indicates it is a common occurrence!! A child is born beautifully endowed with most of mankind's natural instincts in place, the paramount one being it's ability to select by smell and taste, food suitable for it's needs and their aversion to vegetables is natural, normal and understandable. We, as adults have had our childhood instincts beaten out of us, particularly that one, first by our misguided 'eat your greens' parents and for the rest of our lives by crass commercialism of abominations to our digestive system. While the following doesn't apply to man made foods, the golden rule should be to feed your whole family on whatever your child will enthusiastically eat, most times that won't be vegetables and never ever will be Kale but will be naturally ripened fruit that has never seen the inside of a coldroom. Do not force your child to succumb to your dietary habits and opinions which have come about from the traditions of your parents who were from an era where what's good for us and what is not, was assumed from their misguided parents but never truly investigated. 

and what they might contain

Consumption of veggies is a bit of a two edged sword at times. We might eat specific veggies for our perceived need for certain minerals, cabbage for sulphur, carrots for vitamin A, beetroot for iron etc but often there are nasties included for which tests are never done. For example silver beet is a great crop for taking heavy metals out of the soil, where was yours grown? Celery loves nitrogen and farmers pile it on to get great looking celery stalks. Trouble is because of that, celery delivers a lot of nitrates to us, more than we can eliminate under normal circumstances, the excess become acid accumulations, all too often in our joints. We are the only mammal that gets gout, this caused by acid accumulation from eating 'foods' unsuited to our system. 

and the environment.

Vegetables as we know them today have only been around for about 500 years and none of them can exist in nature without our help, they just don't have the vigour or hardiness to compete with native plants - that's our fault, we bred them that way. For example gifted agricultural scientist Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926 developed 800 strains of plants and 26 of them were vegetables.

Quoting sound advice from longevity and fitness guru Jack LaLanne “If man made it don't eat it” and while he didn't realise it applied to vegetables, they are as man made as surely as is a packet of crisps. Five hundred years is a short blink in our time space continuum so for the other thousands or millions of years before, we survived quite well without them.

Vegetables were bred into existence specifically to meet out perceived needs, this development involved mollycoddling and watering every day. Over time this has come to be an essential part of their existence, if they don't get those conditions they die. Our scientists today are hell bent on continuing this trend along all species of plants under the guise of producing more food and preventing world wide starvation. The resultant plants are unable to survive under natural conditions, not only that, the plants so produced are delivering less and less nutrition. For example old species of tomatoes contained nearly 2000 ppm of iron, today's species can have almost none but at least they will roll down a flight of steps without bruising !!  Which aspect is more important to you? Guess which is more important to a Supermarket.


Huge Variations in Mineral Content even in yesteryears vegetables, most likely worse today.
Vegetable Mineral Highest Lowest
Lettuce Calcium 71.0 ME 16.0 ME
Snapbeans Magnesium 60.0 ME 14.8 ME
Cabbage Molybdnum 24.1 ppm 0.0 ppm
Spinach Boron 88 ppm 12 ppm
Luttuce Manganese 169 ppm 1 ppm
Tomatoes Iron 1938 ppm 1 ppm
Tomatoes Copper 0.63 ppm 0.00 ppm
Data source:  Variation on mineral composition of vegetables by F E Bear, S J Troth and A L Prince (Rutgers University)

A farmer prepares a fine seedbed (opening the way for the risk of severe erosion) for his crop of vegetables, plants them, waters them, sprays them for pests (unless he's an organic grower) harvests them and ships them off to market. During the growing season the plants have taken CO2 from the air and sequestered carbon back to the soil. Farmer now prepares his soil for the next crop, this involves plowing and cultivation in one form or another which releases all of the carbon back into the air again !!!!!

Apart from the Amazons Tera Preta with over 20% organic carbon, soil testing reveals normal cropped and irrigated land can have less than 1% of organic carbon. Horticulture, farming of fruit trees on the other hand where the soil doesn't get plowed up every year and are managed properly will have 6.5% of organic matter in their soils. That 5% difference doesn't sound like much but in terms of tonnes of atmospheric CO2 it is enormous. Every 1% of organic matter per hectare equates to 60 tonnes of atmospheric carbon in the air.

Eating the obligatory 2 to 4 servings of vegetables every day isn't that great for your health and you are certainly contributing to global warming.

This from - Pam Pittaway, Chrysalis Landscape Consultants

Interest in soil health is increasing, at a time when the concentration of organic carbon in our cropping soils has decreased by up to 50%. Soil organic carbon is the essence of soil health, because of its contribution to soil fertility, soil structure, nutrient and water holding capacity, and to the survival, activity and diversity of soil animals and microbes. Putting a dollar value on soil organic carbon is difficult, but ignore it at your peril!

Note that in 2014, the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctica are melting at an alarming rate, it has been calculated that when their ice has melted away the sea level will rise 12 meters.  That will play havoc with the tourist industry but will be insignificant compared to the drama caused by the flooding of river deltas where most of the world's vegetables are currently grown. Won't happen by 2050 but shortages are most likely to occur by then which will make life even tougher for those living near the poverty line.


Of course there isn't much that is totally either black or white, there's always a gray area, in this case it is vines which are neither vegetable plants nor fruit trees. The tomato is a conundrum, technically a fruit it is treated as a vegetable yet essentially is a vine. It can survive on it's own in nature, birds will spread its seed and they will pop up everywhere next season – but only those varieties where man has not tried to 'improve' it's attributes. Probably the most important vine to us is the watermelon which provides us with huge amounts of calcium in hot weather when we need calcium the most. It tends to hold its own in nature though not reliably, the seed in not harvested fruit may germinate late in the season if hot enough but will normally remain dormant in the field till the following season.

A good crop of large sweet melons does require, if not soil cultivation then at least some form of weed control, manual or otherwise and usually some irrigating if rainfall is not adequate. So what about other vines, most of which are vegetables? The defining point is whether the vine produces 'pods' with sugars (melons), pods with carbohydrates (pumpkin) or pods that remain vegetable with cellulose cell walls (Zucchini).

Considering all the above one could be excused for thinking the future of mankind is headed steeply downhill without brakes and yes it is. What if the rains don't come or too much comes, what if volcanic ash blots out the sky for a couple of years – it has done before. There is light at the end of the tunnel even when we wouldn't willingly embark on the necessary changes, they could be forced upon us. For instance it is more than likely that water shortages will come upon us, after all we waste what we have in a scandalous fashion and note the widespread ruination of water sources in the USA and elsewhere from shale oil production.

Several years ago a 100 years young lady competed in the hammer throw of the Perth World Masters Games. She won it – not a lot of competition in that age group but the fascinating part was that she didn't just vertically swing and heave the hammer as did other senior competitors, she twirled it around her head as do normal Olympic athletes!!!!! Now that's suppleness 80 plus year olds (and going down into the 50s these 2015 days) can only dream about. When asked the secret to her youthfulness she replied that she never ate vegetables. This was in the original interview but carefully edited out of the re-runs !!  Generally speaking, consuming vegetables tends to mineralise the body by transforming ionic minerals into more solid form. The choice is yours, it's on your dinner plate and the time to act is now, when you are 80 do you want the option to take up hammer throwing or will you need a walking stick to hobble about with?

A farmer from whom I buy watermelons has a small farm on which he manages to grow vegetables and melons without the use of chemical sprays. He is next door to a big market garden enterprise that employs a large workforce to supply large volumes of produce to supermarkets. The interesting part is that this workforce comes to him to buy their personal vegetables becase they know the ones they are growing are saturated in all manner of poisonous chemicals and they wouldn't eat them in a fit - but the unknowing public does, constantly !!!

Producing beef for food uses 15 to 20 times as much water as the production of any other food so a water scarcity would bring about the death knell of beef production. Farmers who did produce it could be assisted into horticulture, for that same area of land would feed several 100s of times more people than the beef produced ever could. More trees means a more stable climate, more rainfall in marginal areas, less erosion from wind or rain, a great increase in soil carbon, less CO2  in the atmosphere, a big improvement in the public's health, less violence, on and on it goes. How to make it happen without nature forcing it upon us?  A dictator with a solid streak of altruism might pull it off but a democracy has next to no chance, we'll just have to wait till extinction stares us in the face.