If you’re looking for an ethical reason not to eat meat, then it’s hard to better the words of the ancient Greek historian and philosopher, Plutarch who, in his work Moralia wrote:
Human beings do not need to eat meat in order to live: it is a choice we make. One of the less strident motivations behind my writing this blog is to show that vegetarianism is not about losing something from your diet but about gaining a better self.
There are also, of course, plenty of health-related reasons for switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet – study after study has shown that it reduces the risk of conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers.
But, increasingly, there is a compelling environmental argument for making that switch.
The human population of planet Earth has already reached plague-like proportions and yet is predicted to grow by a further 3 billion within the next 40 years. At the same time countries with rapidly expanding economies, like China and India, are seeing their huge populations demanding more and more meat in their diets.
Simple arithmetic shows that these pressures make our current way of living and eating unsustainable.
The meat industry is responsible for huge areas of deforestation (around 6 million hectares per year, according to Friends of the Earth), and for major river, ocean and air pollution. It is also the biggest single contributor to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions (more than the combined contribution of cars, lorries, planes and all other forms of transport).
To produce the same quantity of animal protein as vegetable protein takes 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water. If the vegetable protein we grow to use as animal feed was instead fed directly to humans we could feed more than twice as many people as we do now.
If making the switch is too big a step, why not try having at least one meat and dairy free day each week. If everyone did that it would have a significant impact on the environment, on our health and on our pockets.
On to the recipe.
The short but glorious wild garlic season is upon us, and yesterday I went out foraging for this delightful ingredient with my wife Sara and my nephew Luke Smith (who, amongst many other talents, also writes a food blog – The Thriftchen – do please check it out).
This very simple recipe produces a vibrant, peppery oil which is great drizzled over pasta or risotto and also in salad dressings.
When foraging for wild garlic, please be careful not to pull up the bulb and only take as much as you need. And if you can’t locate wild garlic growing near you, you may be lucky enough to find it for sale at your local farmers’ market over the next few weeks or so.
wild garlic oil
250 g wild garlic leaves
350 ml extra virgin olive oil
1. Wash the wild garlic leaves and drain briefly on a kitchen towel. Place the leaves into a juicer and collect the juice. This weight of leaves will yield around 150 ml of juice.
2. Add the olive oil to the juice and pour carefully into a clean, sterilised jar or bottle. Shake well to combine. The oil will keep in the fridge for a few days. Shake well just before using.
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