Why Do Spinach, Lettuce Taste Like Dirt!?

vrkelleyDecember 31, 2008

Without the jokes, what makes greens take on the taste of the soil??? The family is complaining that the store kind is better. I water from the bottom of a large rectangle container and wash the leaves. Some of the leaves do touch the soil while growing. But most stand up.

So why do the indoor container greens taste like dirt??? How can I improve the flavor???

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The earthy taste and odor we associate with leafy greens, beets, mushrooms, even some types of fish, is caused by a bio-compound called geosmin, which is produced by several soil microbes and bacteria. Our sense of taste/smell is highly sensitive to the presence of geosmin, even in minuscule, almost immeasurable concentrations. Greens grown in warm or soggy, and especially in warm AND soggy soils are much more likely to have the earthy taste associated with the compound. High soil pH is also a factor that can contribute to increased concentrations of geosmin. Acidic conditions will break geosmin down into other compounds that are almost tasteless/odorless, so in addition to trying to maintain appropriate soil pH, an acidic rinse of the veggies (vinegar) prior to preparation will help.

Happy New Year. ;o)


    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 4:56PM
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Well GOLLY DANG! I didn't know there was an actual reason. Thanks! My lettuce does not taste like dirt. We love it so I guess my PH and water/soil ratio is good. My only question is why are the leaves thin....not that they are bad, but they are much thinner than the ones I get at the store. I mainly grow Romaine. I guess that is may be that the heads of Romaine I get in the store are older than mine as i pick them pretty fast.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 7:42PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

So what are you guys doing eating dirt? How else would you know what it tastes like. I could likely get past the taste, myself; but I/m pretty sure it would prolly be a texture turn-off thing for me. ;o)


    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 8:22PM
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Dirt! It's still free in most places. :p I can't smell or taste it, but spouse AND visitors are boycotting! Great look'n salad-no takers.

A. Vineagar to wash lettuce will probably wilt the stuff. So do I just cut down the current growth and start over???
B. The soil seems relatively drive most of time. And the plants seem quite healthy and happy. Can geosmin build up from condensation???

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 1:04PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

A) I didn't mean that you should wash it in undiluted vinegar - just an acidic rinse; and vinegar is a nontoxic and mild acid most of us have around. I don't know about the current growth thing. Lowering soil pH or perhaps fertilizing with a fertilizer that tends to be more acidic is another possibility - or adding an ounce or two of vinegar per gallon of irrigation water. I don't have a lot of personal experience in trying to get rid of 'that muddy taste', so I'm going with reversing the situations that caused it in the first place as being logical. I did go as far as looking up 'geosmin' and found that acids break it down into neutral (tasting/smelling) compounds, though.

B) Good question about the condensation, but I don't know the answer. Since it likes moisture and higher pH, I would think it likely that it could. Condensation has a neutral pH, which is higher than the ideal garden/container soil's pH.

At least you have a starting point (geosmin). I hope you're able to ferret out the answers and come up with a workable solution.

I'm guessing not, but I should ask if you're doing any kind of foliar fertigation on these plants?

Good luck - sorry for the lame attempt at the joke. You should've left out the "Without the jokes ..." part. lol If it wasn't me, it would have been someone else.

Take care, VR.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 3:58PM
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I didn't catch that....When washing the cut lettuce or spinach, how much vinegar/gallon of water do I use???

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:31PM
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Fixing the soil is the way to go. But while you're figuring that out....if you need to wash your greens, here is the formula. I'm guessing this will be strong enough to remove the geosmin without wilting the greens. If you know of a better wash, please post your formula or recipe.

Produce Wash  Mix three parts distilled white vinegar to 1 part water in a spray bottle. Use to blast away germs from produce. After spraying, rinse well under cold running water. Store leftover spray, tightly capped, in fridge.

Source: http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/node/372

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 9:22PM
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