Plants Taste Better Because of Bugs

Insect defense via chemicals in plants

This week I want to talk about why plants taste better because of bugs. Related: I keep watching Green Planet and keep loving it.

A cool thing about plants: Their taste comes from their stress. They often create aromas and flavors, in the form of chemicals, in order to repel bugs. Counterpoint: My meat-eating friends think stressed animals taste bad.

Plants also use chemicals to call for help. They emit volatile organic compounds when damaged, which attract predators like parasitic wasps. Some plants secrete nectar outside of flowers to attract predatory ants. Some secrete poison that an insect might bring back to a fungi which is the insect’s source of food. Others secrete sticky resins that trap insects, making them easy prey.

E.g., Insect comes, plant pushes out a little poison or attracts a predator to the insect. The chemical triggers other nearby plants to do the same.

So they are communicating successfully with other plants, and insects and animals that eat insects.

This works really well in an ecosystem where there are a bunch of plants, because they can start accumulating and secreting the insect poisons in advance, before the insects get to them, and then they can hit them hard. One or two plants may get heavily damaged but the others are fine. It doesn’t destroy the insects either, they just move on, full for a while.

And it’s really smart. It’s a passive evolutionary skill that works well.

At Farm.One we had and have a massive diversity of plant species, some with these behaviors. Even in a small farm like that these things are happening. And you get good flavor.

I like to share these examples because they show a different way of thinking about how to grow and thrive. The plant world is full of them. And they show how complex the ecosystem is too. If you remove the bugs, their predators go hungry and the plants taste bad.

I coach CEOs, founders and executives on how to reach their full potential, become great leaders, and scale strong, impactful companies. It works.

If you like reading about leadership, work and culture, but are also OK with forays into subjects like creativity, worldview, psychedelics, farming, startups + reality, then I recommend you subscribe to this newsletter. It’s free.

Join the conversation

or to participate.