Vegetable Island

As you may know, a primary interest of mine is sustainable living.  That is, living in such a way so as to provide for as many of your necessities as possible.  This might include building your own home out of local materials, letting the sun and wind provide for your energy needs, growing your own food, etc.

In a way, growing your own food seems much easier for the Vegetarian.  I mean, there’s no raising of livestock, hunting or fishing, right?  On the other hand, however, there are some extra considerations to take into account.

When I tell people I’m a Vegetarian the most common reaction is that I must be protein deficient.  “How on Earth do you get enough protein?”, they ask.  Since I’m not Vegan I do eat some dairy and eggs, and if you add to that soy and other beans and nuts, protein isn’t a problem.

The real challenge for a Vegetarian is assuring there’s enough intake of the Vitamin B-12.  This Vitamin is uncommon in plants, although it is often found on plants in the form of manure and healthy bacterium.  If you eat a good deal of eggs and milk, this isn’t such an issue.  However, I don’t drink milk, don’t eat a lot of eggs, and would prefer not to stuff myself with cheese.

Take a supplement you say?  Many of my Veggie friends do just that, or make sure to drink up a daily dose of one of the bazillion organic, B-12 fortified juices out there.  We’re talking sustainable living, though, right?

So a discussion recently arose on a Sustainable Living group I frequent on this very topic.  More specifically someone asked this question: “If you were being sent to a Vegetarian Island and could take with you ten food-producers, what would you take in order to assure your diet could provide sufficient B-12?”

I learned a lot.

For starters, there were several objections to the question, or maybe better said, requests for clarification.  Everyone agreed that the local bio-region of the “Vegetarian Island” should be the largest determining factor behind such a list.  Once we got past that sticking-point the B-12 winners were as follows….

  • Soybeans
  • Barley
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Mushrooms

Far from 10.  Why?  No one could come up with anything more than these five that were verifiable.  However, as I stated, I learned a lot.

Shitake Mushrooms have more B-12 than any other mushroom variety.  They are also an excellent choice because they average 18% protein, in a perfectly complete balance.  Yet if you’re concerned with alkaline eating, mushrooms aren’t for you.

Also, root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and Jerusalem artichoke have all been shown to contain B-12 WHEN the soil is organically fertilized with a B-12 analogue.  Good B-12 analogue fertilizers include cow dung and seaweed emulsions.  Humanure is one of the best B-12 analogue fertilizers but you don’t want that on your root veggies.

Everyone concluded that short of eating some dirt, the best method to obtain B-12 in a sustainable living situation would be to look beyond the world of veggies and fruits.

Seaweeds are the best solution.  One version, known as Dulse (Palmaria Palmata) just about triples every other variety.  Kelp is the next in line, but with 1/3 the B-12 analogue that Dulse offers.  This worked as a solution in our scenario but not everyone is heading out to live on an island or has a salt-water pond hanging around their backyard.  Also, it’s important to note that seaweed should never be consumed in large quantities due to exceptionally high iodine levels.

And this brings me to another important factor.  Some foods touted as “B-12 rich” can actually LOWER your B-12 levels due to a B-12 consuming enzyme they produce.  One of these foods is Nori, especially raw.

We came across many rumors that have long been taken as true.  The first was that any soybean product is rich in B-12.  Nope.  Fresh soybeans (Edamame) are the only soybeans which test positive for B-12 analogues.  Tofu and fermented soybean products do not contain any measurable B-12.  Miso is not rich in B-12.  And there isn’t a trace of B-12 in the dried beans, the bean paste, or in soy sauce.  So much for all the Veggies who claim to get sufficient B-12 from Tempeh.  If they are not B-12 deficient due to their false belief, they are getting the nutrient elsewhere.

Something similar should be said for Barley.  While the grain can provide a low-dose of B-12, malted Barley Syrup does not, as several sites suggest.

And a final note.  Yeasts and bacterium.  Have you ever seen fresh, organicaly grown grapes that seem to have a dry, white powder on their exterior?  If you don’t wash the grapes (which is only recommended if you KNOW exactly how the grapes have been cared for) they can provide a moderate-source of B-12.  The same with a carrot left at room temperature for a few hours, but this last one is a gamble, as it must be a specific form of bacteria which makes its home on the carrot in order for that carrot to provide you with B-12.

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