CELS researcher testing vegetable growing methods popular among ethnic communities

Taylor2John Taylor is intrigued by the methods that ethnic communities use to grow their native vegetables in urban settings in the United States. So the University of Rhode Island scientist is testing some of those strategies to see if the methods could increase crop yields of more conventional vegetables.

“The U.S. has an increasingly diverse population, and for many immigrants, continuing their food ways is an important way to reproduce their culture,” said Taylor, URI assistant professor of plant sciences, who earned his doctorate studying ethnic home gardens in Chicago. “The way some ethnic groups grow their crops is often quite different from how other people grow those same crops.”

Taylor is focusing his initial studies on growing several varieties of amaranth, a leafy vegetable popular among African, Asian and Caribbean cultures, and bitter melon, a warty cucumber-shaped fruit with medicinal values favored in India and Southeast Asia. He is growing the two, along with a sweet potato variety grown for its leaves, all together in the same space, a practice called polyculture.

“In polyculture, you’re growing multiple species together to get more production from a unit of area compared to growing those crops in monoculture,” he said. “It’s a way to maximize the use of space. In many Chinese-origin household gardens, they sometimes double production because they have a vine crop growing vertically on a trellis with a leafy ground layer below it. It helps the household be more food secure.”…[Read more]