Veganuary and a Recipe for Lentil, Haricot Bean and Mushroom Roast
By Diana Catton
For several years now I have taken part in Veganuary, a month of trying out the vegan diet during January, hence the play on words.
Veganuary itself was started in the UK 14 years ago as a non-profit organisation by Jane Land_and_Matthew Glover, who have been passionate vegans for many years. In 2014 3,300 people signed up, and the growth in participation has been remarkable, suggesting veganism fits in with the general Zeitgeist. Each year more and more people join in, and veganism as a dietary choice has been gaining hugely in popularity, particularly amongst people who align themselves with green issues. It is well known, for example, that it takes eight times as much land to produce a kilo of meat protein as it does to produce a kilo of vegetarian protein, added to which of course, are the methane and other nasty things produced by the animals, and the fact that they eat food which could be given to humans. If everybody was vegan we could easily feed the world, assuming the politics allowed us to. All of these considerations make veganism very attractive to people who are trying to save the planet. Almost 600,000 signed up for the Veganuary 2021 challenge, and that is just the people who sign up for things. Many, many others will have tried it out without signing up. In fact, it is thought that ten times more people actually participate than register. Before this year more than one million had registered, although I suspect that many of them, like myself, have gone vegan every January for several years now. When you see the plant-based options which have become available in the supermarkets it is easy to appreciate the impact Veganuary and other initiatives have had.
The Veganuary press pack gives an idea of the impact one million people eating vegan for a month has on the planet, courtesy of Harvard University's Dr Helen Harwatt from the Animal Law and Policy Program. Enough carbon dioxide to drive around the world almost 15,000 times, 1,645 tonnes of sewage spared from waterways, 6.2 million litres of water saved (that equates to flushing the loo almost half a million times), not forgetting the lives of 3.4 million animals spared.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the people who tried veganism in January 2019 represented 4.7% of the total UK population, with an average age of 41, and two thirds of them were female. Most of them wanted to be healthier, half were concerned about animal welfare and about one third joined for environmental reasons (source Kantar, FMCG panel, Veganuary LinkQ - July 2019). Of those who actually signed up in 2020, the gender bias was even more pronounced, with 83% of the participants being female. They ranged in age from 13 to over 75, with the mode age being 25-34. Reasons for participating were split between animal welfare and the environment, with personal health coming third. Before January 2020 half of the registrants had a traditional omnivorous diet, 30% were vegetarian and 19% were already vegan.
So, I went out shopping and bought the food for the first week's recipes, really looking forward to it as I loved the new ways with food I discovered in previous Veganuaries.
Then I looked at the labels. Almost everything had been shipped in from halfway round the world and I saw things a little differently. In fact I was horrified. I don't need to eat avocadoes and asparagus in January. What I really need to do if I believe in saving the planet is to eat locally sourced produce, but that is easier said than done as so many vegan products are grown elsewhere.
So I set about trying to find a few recipes which would only use UK sourced ingredients and it was not as easy as you might think. However, whilst accepting that some things will still have to be bought in until you get your greenhouse, windowsill and raised beds sorted, and some spices will only grow in far-flung places, let's do our best to be both animal- and planet-friendly! Here is a selection of locally-sourced ingredients which are around in the early part of the year and which make some delicious meals too.
Apples, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Red Cabbage, Salsify, Savoy Cabbage, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Squash, Swedes, Turnips, White Cabbage, Purple Sprouting Broccoli (source: The Vegetarian Society https://vegsoc.org). UK grown tomatoes are also available in my local supermarket.
A great thing to cook this time of year is a hearty chunky soup. Start by sautéing a base of onion, celery and carrot; then add other vegetables with vegetable stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Then add herbs, spices, ready-cooked pulses and any leafy vegetables. Cook for another five minutes or so then serve.
Pulses were an issue for me until I did some research, as most of the ones we eat are imported. I found a wonderful website set up by the Sustainable Food Trust sustainablefoodtrust.org called Hodmedods (hodmedods.co.uk), which sells and provides recipes for all kinds of UK grown pulses.
Here is one of their recipes, Lentil, Haricot Bean and Mushroom Roast, which they took from The Cook and Him ( http://thecookandhim.com), and I have made a couple of changes to make ingredients more UK sourced and methods more sustainable:
Of course, the shops are currently full of wonderful British apples and pears, and if you froze, pickled or canned last year's garden produce you will have plenty of choice, including frozen herbs. If you do not have a garden you can still buy seasonal UK-sourced produce when it is cheap and preserve it for future use. It is always worthwhile freezing berries picked whilst out walking, and many streets have plum trees growing at the side of the road with fruit available for all. I picked the sweet chestnuts from public trees where I used to live and other people had no idea that they were edible (as opposed to horse chestnuts, which are used as conkers by children).
I shall now write a regular article with seasonal recipes to make it easier to save the planet as well as the animals!