You may have heard of hydroponics, which is the growing of plants in water rather than in soil. Hydroponics systems allow gardeners to grow plants indoors and out, all year round, without wasting valuable land or water. Hydroponically grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs often grow faster, and they can be kept organic as well. But how do they stack up against soil-grown plants in terms of taste and nutritional value? If you’ve been wondering, “Are hydroponic vegetables healthy?”, here’s a little more information on the subject.
How Does Hydroponics Work?
The growing process for hydroponic gardens only differs in the way plants receive water and nutrients. Plants are suspended in a growing medium such as perlite (volcanic glass), clay pellets, coco coir (made from coconut husks), rice hulls, or rockwool rather than planted in soil. Their roots dangle and draw nutrition from a solution that circulates through the system. Hydroponics systems vary—a wick system delivers food and water through a rope dipped in the solution, while with aeroponics, the food is delivered through a mist. Otherwise, plants receive light, warmth, and air and thrive, flower, and fruit the way all plants do.
Hydroponics may seem a bit artificial compared to traditional growing methods, but that won’t turn up in the flavor. Hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables taste no different from ones cultivated in the ground, though more control over light, minerals, and so forth can aid in bringing out their full piquancy and tang. Hard-core foodies might sense a difference, and gardeners do try to help the taste by adding or taking away certain nutrients, but concerns about the food tasting “fake” or what-have-you are baseless.
Nutrition and Health
Now to answer the question: Are hydroponic vegetables healthy? Once again, it all depends on cultivation methods. Gardeners monitor the pH content of the water and nutrient solution and the amount of sun or artificial light the plants receive. A dip in the content of any of these can mean a drop in plant hardiness and quality. Hydroponically grown plants are less prone to being attacked or eaten by insects, slugs, and other creatures, but the water needs to be regularly changed and carefully monitored to prevent algae, bacteria, mold, mildew, and other microbial and fungal infections and infestations. These can prevent plants from feeding and getting enough water, therefore depriving them of nutrition or, worse, killing them. On the plus side, since they’re grown indoors or otherwise isolated from outside forces, hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables require less fertilizer and usually no pesticides and herbicides, keeping the plants healthy and your food free from harmful chemicals.