The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

chard and butter beans with wild garlic

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The meat industry is a staggeringly inefficient vehicle for producing enough food to feed a growing world population.

An astonishing 83% of all agricultural land is now devoted to livestock, yet meat produces only 18% of the world’s supply of calories. The imbalance is growing: as nations become richer – in monetary terms – they tend to increase their meat consumption, placing even more strain on finite agricultural land.

The exponential growth in livestock farming over the past fifty years has created deforestation, water pollution, soil erosion and biodiversity loss, and the meat industry is also a massive contributor to global warming.

A study published in the journal Science last year compared the environmental costs associated with meat production with those for producing plant protein and discovered that even the lowest impact beef was responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and required 36 times more land than growing the equivalent amount of plant protein.

The source of the meat industry’s impact on global warming lies in the prodigious quantities of animal waste livestock farming creates. Aside from pollutants like ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and nitrous oxide, animal waste also produces methane, in vast quantities. Methane is the deadliest of the greenhouse gases. It is more damaging than CO2, by a factor of around 80, not least because it takes up to two decades to break down.

Like so much about our current way of life, the way we eat is unsustainable and it is directly endangering the future of humankind. Of all our unhealthy, damaging, polluting activities, the highest impact change any of us humans can make is to stop eating meat.

Humans do not need to eat meat. We are perfectly capable of surviving on a plant-based diet.

If we freed ourselves from our compulsion to eat our fellow creatures the landd freed up from livestock farming could be used for reforestation and organic agriculture, both of which would help reverse climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

It’s a no brainer.

On to the recipe.

This is a simple, rustic dish with few ingredients which really packs a punch. It is seriously delicious.

I used home-grown rhubarb chard for their lovely crimson stems, but you could substitute spinach or long-stemmed broccoli if you prefer.

Vegan Parmesan is available in health food stores and even some supermarkets. Alternatively, you can leave it out altogether.

Any left over wild garlic pesto can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days. Try it swirled through pasta, or drizzled over home made pizza.

chard and butter beans with wild garlic

400 g can organic butter beans, rinsed and drained
250 g chard, roughly chopped
150 ml vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt

for the wild garlic pesto sauce

100 g wild garlic, washed and drained
40 g pine nuts, toasted
50 g vegetarian or vegan Parmesan
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
pinch sea salt


1. Place the wild garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil into a food processor and blend together, stopping before it becomes completely smooth in order to leave some texture.

2. Pour two tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or skillet and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chard and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves begin to wilt in the heat. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat a little, still maintaining a simmer and cook, stirring for a further 5 minutes, by which time the liquid will have reduced and the chard stems should be tender. Add the butter beans and the sea salt and cook for a further two minutes, stirring every so often. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, then stir add 2-3 tablespoons of the wild garlic pesto and swirl it through the bean and chard mixture.

3. Serve in bowls or on plates, accompanied by some good quality bread.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: ,

4 replies

  1. I agree with a good amount of what you are saying and find your recipe darling. The numbers and facts we find can be fitted to suit our needs. From an evolutionary standpoint carnivores eat herbivores because they are better at metabolizing cellulose laden calories…There’s grass everywhere! A lion eats grass all day and dies. A gazelle eats grass all day and strives. There are a lot more gazelle because there is a lot more grass. So the lion eats like the gazelle and the universe is in equality. Also there is no reason to believe that if humans eat all the same things as the cows, pigs or chickens did the greenhouse gases would be any less. There’s a chemical reaction to breaking down these products that is not going to magically change based on which stomach this process takes place in.

    • Thanks for your kind comments on the recipe.
      Your arguments are interesting but confine themselves to only one element of the problem. I certainly have no intention of starting to eat grass and doubt any of us do. But the food I do eat takes far less space, and uses up much less water to grow than is required to produce an equivalent amount of meat.
      Setting aside questions of human and animal physiology, our insatiable appetite for the beefburger has led to a huge proliferation in domesticated cattle, which in turn has led to rainforest clearances and the degradation of arable land. The UN has warned that continuing with these practices would mean we have only sixty years of topsoil left. All of these additional factors are net contributors to global warming. To turn things around we have to change a lot of aspects of our lives, and consumption of meat is right up there at the top of the list. Steve

  2. I am eating this now, it’s incredible. I don’t have wild garlic here in Minnesota, so thin sliced couple cloves and put them in oil before chard. Used store pesto. I keep seeing recipes of yours with wild garlic, I really need to find it. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hi Tricia. Thank you for your kind comments, your adaptation of the recipe sounds good. I would expect you to be able to find wild garlic (ramps) in Minnesota if you can find the right spot. They certainly grow further north, in Canada. Steve

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