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Nitrate accumulation in winter greens: the dangers and how to minimize them

publication date: Oct 1, 2013
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greens in hoophouseDuring periods of short daylight length and low light intensity, there is a potential health risk associated with nitrate accumulation in leafy greens. Nitrates can be converted in the body into toxic nitrites, which reduce the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. Additionally, nitrites can form carcinogenic nitrosamines.  This topic was investigated by the New Alchemy Institute and others in the 1970’s, faded from the headlines, received some more interest in the late 90’s, then sank again. Health problems are definitely associated with high nitrate intake, and although the evidence that long-term ill-health is caused by high nitrate levels is questioned by some, it is not disputed that reduction of nitrates in the diet is a wise preventative measure. I first learned about the subject from Steve Moore (now teaching AgroEcolgy in the Environmental Studies Department at Elon University, NC) at a weekend course about building and growing in a hoophouse. He gave us a list of steps to take to minimize nitrate levels in winter hoophouse greens. I have added my own research onto that.

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