Growing your own food is not only a liberating and fulfilling experience: in a world where so much of our food is controlled by global corporations it is also an act of dissent.
Some of the fruit and vegetables that I grow on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden are rare, heritage varieties which, under draconian EU seed legislation, are now illegal to buy and sell. In recent years, the European Commission has even attempted to introduce legislation to prevent people like me swapping or giving away our heritage seeds.
Why are so many traditional seed varieties illegal?
Simply because these many wonderful seed varieties – like my Victorian Purple Pea, Buffalo Horn Tomato, Jamaican Starley Red Pea and French Golden Radish – are not registered on the EU’s Common Catalogue of Vegetable Varieties. Seeds not registered in this way can no longer be bought or sold.
And the reason these heritage seed varieties are not registered with the EU is that it costs many thousands of pounds to do so, and these magnificent varieties are no longer commercially viable in a world of mechanised, chemical-dependent monoculture. As they aren’t commercially viable they don’t get registered and de facto become illegal to buy or sell. Over time, the supplies of such seeds dwindle and, in increasing numbers, these rare varieties disappear for ever.
So who benefits most from this requirement to register seed varieties with the EU?
The answer, of course, is those same big businesses that control so much of our food production.
Two companies in particular benefit enormously from this process of “intellectual copyrighting” of seed varieties. They are Monsanto and Syngenta, who, along with a third global giant, Bayer, have gradually built up the intellectual copyright to 70% of the world’s registered seeds.
On a planet with a burgeoning human population, all of whom require feeding, that is a very powerful position to be in.
So it was with alarm that last week I read an item of business news which may have understandably slipped under the radar of most readers: a $45 billion bid by Monsanto to take over Syngenta.
Although the Monsanto bid was rejected by Syngenta, I think it is safe to predict that this won’t be the end of the matter. If, ultimately, the two companies do come together, the newly formed conglomerate will have an unassailable grip on the seed market, which is likely to accelerate the reduction in the variety of seeds legally available.
A Monsanto/Syngenta merger would also have a controlling share of the world’s agrochemicals industry and would leave genetically modified organisms in the hands of one of the most powerful corporations on Earth.
So, even if all you have is a tiny back yard, a balcony or a window sill in your kitchen, there’s never been a better time to join the rebellion by resolving to grow at least a little of your own food.
Onto the recipe.
As I’m currently returning from each allotment trip laden with lots of lovely Superaquadulce broad beans, it really had to be a broad bean dish.
Here I’ve paired them with coriander to provide a fresh, healthy, tasty and vibrant falafel. Once you’ve popped the beans out of their skins the falafel really take very little time to make and cook, and they are so rewarding.
broad bean and coriander falafel
500 g broad beans (weight without outer pods)
1 free range organic egg
50 g breadcrumbs
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, de seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
50 g gram or rice flour
2 tbsp groundnut oil
lemon wedges, to serve
1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the broad beans and cook for just two minutes. Drain and then immediately plunge the beans into a bowl of ice cold water. Remove the tough outer skin from each broad bean and place the beans in a food processor. Pulse a few times to break them down, then add the egg, breadcrumbs, cumin, coriander, chilli, garlic and sea salt. Process until all the ingredients are combined.
2. Form the falafel mixture into small balls, about 2-3 cm in diameter. Flatten them slightly then coat them lightly with the flour.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan. When hot, carefully place the falafel in the oil. You will need to do this in batches. Cook the falafel for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. Drain briefly on kitchen paper before serving while still hot, accompanied by lemon wedges, salad and pita or other flatbread.