Flavor in vegetables
The human brain perceives flavor as the result of combinations of various compounds and aromatics from the food people eat.
Even in enjoying a tomato, more than 400 volatile compounds influence the flavor. Not only the tongue but also the nose contribute to the flavor experience that human perceives.
In short, the flavors in vegetables or other types of food are basically about perception sense. Hence when tasting a certain vegetable, some people might have a different opinion about the flavor than others.
As people have their preferences in the basic flavor, it labels the vegetable as tastier or less tasty. Somehow, the taste of vegetables is linked to their growing process.
Are hydroponic vegetables tasteless?
There is a stigma that hydroponic vegetables are plainer and waterier. People think the cause is the growing media that are mostly water.
To improve the taste, many even wonder how to make hydroponic vegetables taste better. Before reaching the answer, people should be aware that the hydroponic technique does not fully change the taste of the vegetables.
One opinion from a person who has tasted the hydroponic vegetables might affect other people’s perception of the flavor of hydroponic veggies.
More than that, many factors contribute to the taste of vegetables. Even soil-growing vegetables could have different tastes from one another or even less tasty than the hydroponic ones. Those factors will be broken down in detail below.
Why do vegetables and fruits’ tastes vary?
As mentioned before, hundreds of volatile compounds build up the flavor. One is sweetness, which can be measured in a refractometer or Brix meter using Brix degree.
The sweetness in vegetables comes from sugar and carbs. Not only produced by photosynthesis, but carbs in plants also come from the decaying plant matter in its surrounding soil.
Some of it is something that hydroponic gardeners miss. So how do make hydroponic vegetables taste better? Gardeners could add premade carb-loading additives such as molasses and bud candy.
Those additives have their advantages and disadvantages that gardeners should be aware of. Furthermore, the flavor is also influenced by capsaicin, acid, inosinate, guanylate, and glutamine.
Those compounds come from certain nutrients influencing the whole flavor of vegetables.
Hydroponic vs. soil-planted vegetables
People still compare hydroponic and soil-growing vegetables based on their taste, size, quality, and other aspects.
Viewed by measurable and objective aspects, here is the comparison between the two types of growing methods. Regarding size, hydroponic vegetables are relatively bigger than soil ones.
Then from harvest time, hydroponic ones could be harvested in a shorter time. Lettuces, for example, could be harvested in 3-4 weeks, but in the soil, they can be harvested in 5-8 weeks.
Research also found the nutrient amounts in both vegetables are relatively similar. Lastly, in terms of effectiveness, the hydroponic method wins as it requires less water, soil, space, weeding, and pest care.
Tips on how to make hydroponic vegetables taste better
- Regularly check the nutrients and vegetables’ condition while growing hydroponically.
- Adding fertilizer with high sulfur contents. It is known that sulfur is good for boosting flavor, especially the isothiocyanate compound.
- Give more stressors to the plant. Stress for plats somewhat stimulates stronger flavor, like rosemary in dry places. It is known that in hydroponic, plants barely struggle, causing the flavor not to develop to the fullest. Constraining in certain ways, like increasing EC, lowering the humidity, raising the temperature, and others, are okay. Yet, keep in mind that different plants react differently to certain stressful conditions.
- Serve the vegetables while it is fresh. Sometimes people’s hydroponic vegetables are less tasty when consuming non-fresh ones. Freshness indeed impacts the flavor. Hydroponic vegetables are best consumed less than 48 hours after harvesting.
Factors that influence the taste of vegetables
Besides applying the tips above, there is another answer to the question of ‘how to make hydroponic vegetables taste better?’. That is by putting more concern into these factors:
Whether from the sun or growing light, plants need the right light types and a sufficient amount of light exposure.
Light helps photosynthesis that produces energy in the form of carbs. This surely affects the taste of vegetables.
Water includes the pH. Certain plants could not grow in too acidic or too alkaline pH. Adjusting the pH will help the plant’s growth and flavor development.
Moreover, nutrients carried by water also affect nutrient absorption, like high phosphorus will inhibit magnesium absorption.
- Plant genetics
Genetics as the internal factor also greatly impacts the flavor of produce. Hence it is important to grow vegetables from the previous plant that have been consumed or tasted.
Even though in the growing process, external factors also contribute, preparing the best quality seeds is a safe step.
- Root density
Providing enough space for the root to grow is also essential as this part is the main transportation for nutrients inside the plant. Checking the space and growth of roots must be done diligently as a part of nutrient management in hydroponics.