There’s been some good news recently for those of us concerned about the prospect of genetically modified (GM) crops entering our food chain. The global chemical giant and leading GM proponent Monsanto has announced that it is withdrawing several applications to grow genetically modified crops in the EU. These relate to genetically modified soya beans, corn and sugar beet.
This decision may not necessarily be a victory for anti GM activists, nor does it necessarily reflect the very strong public opinion that has been voiced in some EU countries, most notably France, Italy and the UK. Although these factors may well have played a part in Monsanto’s decision, the company claims that the sole reason for its retreat is exasperation at the bureaucratic hurdles it has met in trying to gain EU approval for growing GM crops in member states.
Either way, this decision is welcome news. Despite all the claims for GM crops, the evidence from the US, where they have been grown commercially for thirteen years now, is that they have not significantly increased yields and have instead led to a huge increase in the use of pesticides.
GM food also remain very unpopular with the US public. As a spokesman for one of Monsanto’s many subsidiary companies has said, “if you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it”.
The industry has got around the problem of negative perception by diverting GM crops into animal feed. Meat, eggs and dairy products from animals that have been raised on GM feed do not have to be labelled. This loophole has allowed GM foods to enter the food chain by the back door, making American citizens unwitting participants in an experiment that may take decades to produce results.
Let’s move on to a recipe. Each year I grow a single scallopini plant on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden. Also known less romantically as patty pan and custard squash, scallopini is often described as being shaped like a flying saucer but I always think it resembles a generously filled pie. My one plant is sufficient to ensure a steady supply of scallopini during the late summer months.
A good source of magnesium and of vitamins A and C, it is best eaten when the fruit is small, no more than 10cm in diameter, otherwise it starts to becomes too fibrous.
Here I’ve used my scallopini in a beautifully flavoured, nourishing, creamy soup. It’s astonishing how just a few simple ingredients can come together to make such a lovely dish. It’s also quick and very easy to make, ready in 30 minutes.
scallopini soup with garlic and mint
750 g scallopini, chopped into chunks
1 onion, chopped
4 plump cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. add the garlic, salt and scallopini and cook for a further two minutes.
2. Add the vegetable stock, stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce to a low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the scallopini are soft.
3. Remove from the heat, add most of the mint (reserving a small amount for decoration). Leave to cool.
4. Using a blender, blend the soup until smooth and creamy. Return to a clean pan and warm the soup over a low heat until it just starts to bubble at the edges. Remove from the heat. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with the reserved mint. Serve with a good bread.