The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

broad bean and coriander falafel

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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.

harvested broad beansshelled broad beansfresh coriandermaking falafel

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.

Categories: gluten free

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19 replies

  1. As amazing a cook you are, I just realised you must be an equally knowledgeable and talented gardener. D’oh! 🙂

  2. Lovely piece! We were hooked from the first sentence.

  3. Great post and an issue that needs so much publicity. Can’t wait to try out this recipe. Thanks for posting.

  4. Great post CG…we need more awareness. I shake my fist at those multinational corporations. I am going to start fighting off our possums and try growing a bit more than tomatoes and herbs next summer. Better than nowt but I would like to grow more.

    • Thank you CG, glad to have you on board! As the American guerrilla gardener Ron Finley says: “gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do… plus, you get strawberries.” 🙂


  5. I had just read about the further food-controlling exploits of the Monsanto Monster last week too 🙁 It is good that Syngenta’s shareholders said ‘No’, but you could certainly bet your last dollar it won’t be an end to it. This is one of the problems I have with the European machine – it is effectively run by corporate lobbyists. The ‘Gardeners’ Resistance’ must stay strong! Dig for victory!! The falafel sound delicious – broad beans are a real taste of early summer for me.

    • Hi, and thanks for commenting. I agree with what you say. Although I am pro-Europe I believe the EU is in serious need of reform. Sadly, however, I don’t imagine that curtailing the activities of the corporate lobbyists will even feature on the British Prime Minister’s agenda when he enters into talks over reform of the EU ahead of the UK’s in/out referendum.


      • Generally, I am pro-Europe too – it’s just very frustrating the way things work in the EU eg the current ‘negotiations’ on TTIP. No doubt the PM’s agenda will be very different to what most of us would like to see discussed.

  6. I’m growing broad beans for the first time this year. They were planted earlier in the year so are not ready yet but I am pleased the plants are looking strong and healthy and no sign of blackfly so far. This recipe will be great when they are ready to harvest.Thank you.

    • Thank you. I really love broad beans, probably in part this is because their season is so fleeting. You’ve done well to avoid the blackfly so far, but once they do strike, as they surely will, you’ll find your plants quickly infested. The best way to deal with the problem is to pinch off the tops of the plants.


  7. Hey. I asked you about Kale. I hated the stuff. Boiling it or steaming it didn’t make it easy to eat. I nearly pulled it all out of my garden. Then I threw it in a HOT fry pan with oil and crushed Garlic. MAGIC.. Magic. Try it and throw all tonights vegetables in with it. I NOW love kale.

  8. Love this recipe, thank you! Just wondering what the alternative to rice flour is as the recipe says 50g ‘gram’ or rice flour. Thank you.

    • Thank you Alexandra 😊. ‘Gram flour’, also known as ‘besan’, is a flour made from chickpeas (garbanzo beans in the US). Steve

      • Thank you so much Steve. Please excuse my ignorance it looked like a typo. Thanks for the education and prompt reply. 😀

      • No problem Alexandra. I am certainly not immune to mistyping, so I’m grateful that you took the trouble to check this with me! Steve 🙂

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