Climate change brings unpredictability and instability to the environment, a major worry when it comes to growing food.
Plants which may once have thrived in a particular region may no longer do so if that region suddenly experiences significant fluctuations in temperature, or becomes subject to flooding or drought.
This uncertainty makes it all the more important to our survival to have a wide range of edible plant species available, some of which may be better able to adapt to climate change. The broader the range of seed varieties, and the broader the range of different characteristics within that range, the more chance there is that we will find crop varieties that can grow in a changed, more hostile environment.
Yet, at the very same time that we are most in need of greater plant diversity, the range available to humankind is shrinking. Worse still, the plant gene pool is being deliberately diminished by legislation designed to protect big businesses. The European Union, for example, levies a hefty charge on seeds registered for sale within the EU. Any seeds that are not registered in this way become illegal to buy and sell.
This reckless legislation has led to most seed “ownership” (through the device of intellectual copyright) ending up in the hands of three of the world’s biggest global corporations – Syngenta, Monsanto and Bayer (and the latter two are due to merge shortly).
Interestingly, these corporations can only copyright hybrid (F1) varieties and, of course genetically modified (GMO) seeds. They cannot intellectually copyright heritage varieties, which are “true” seeds (F1 varieties are quite literally useless over time whilst heritage seeds remain true to their inherited characteristics).
Thanks to seed legislation, however, it is these vital heritage varieties that are slowly disappearing – the very seed varieties that we most need if we are to survive the challenge of climate change.
Globally there are a number of initiatives to protect the wider gene pool through the use of seed banks (in the UK we have the wonderful Heritage Seed Library run by Garden Organic). We also have lots of small scale growers who save and sow much of their own seed and who therefore play an important role in protecting the seeds of the future. But as things stand, with more and more varieties disappearing for good, they are fighting a losing battle.
So, if you grow, or are thinking of growing, some of your own food please join the cause. Avoid using F1 hybrids and instead only sow heritage varieties. You will be playing a small but important role in protecting both posterity and our common future.
On to the recipe, which I have created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative.
Under the terms of our arrangement, every couple of months I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. From these I create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
This is a great tasting vegan comfort-food dish, with an Indian/Malaysian fusion of flavours.
It takes just a few minutes to cook, but a little longer to prepare. Make sure you have all the ingredients prepared and to hand before you put the wok over the heat, because once you start there is no stopping until the noodles are ready to serve!
vegan Singapore-style noodles
200 g rice vermicelli noodles
4 tbp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp curry paste
1 onion, finely sliced
1 red pepper, finely sliced
100 g shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
160 g marinated tofu pieces
50 g fresh peas (use defrosted frozen peas if fresh are not available)
6 spring onion, white and green parts, thinly sliced diagonally
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 cm piece ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (keep seeds in for extra heat)
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
toasted sesame oil, for frying
1. Soak the noodles in hot water for about five minutes, or until they have softened. Drain and rinse under cold water. Toss with a tablespoon of sesame oil (this stops the noodles sticking together, as well as imparting flavour). Set to one side.
2. Whisk together the soy sauce, maple syrup and 2 tbsp of the sesame oil. Set to one side
3. Place a wok over a high heat. Once it is hot, pour in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. After thirty seconds add the sliced onion (but not the spring onion) and stir-fry for two minutes.
4. Next, add the mushrooms, pepper, spring onions peas, garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir fry vigorously for a further two minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn. Add the curry paste and quickly stir it through the other ingredients. Finally, add the tofu pieces, the noodles and the soy sauce mixture. Stir fry for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice and chopped coriander and serve immediately.