Daily Archives: February 15, 2010

Sustainable food

The UK relays on three main foods; wheat, potatoes and rice. Since reading this in Permaculture in a Nutshell I have noticed how true this is, the main staple of most of our meals is one of these, and often a meal includes more than one of these three.

The way that wheat is grown takes a lot of oil; so does the way that potatoes are grown commercially in this country. Rice growing requires a lot of water and land is often flooded to produce rice. When I was in Kenya we visited a wetland that had been reduced to make way for rice paddy fields. Rice is the main food staple for half the world population and although I haven’t found any figures on it, I would imagine that wheat makes up a great deal of the stamp diets of the other half as I did find out that wheat now covers more of the land than any other kind of plant, so a guess that half of the world relay on it as a food staple doesn’t sound so out landish.

Relaying so heavily on so few foods is clearly very dangerous, just imagine what the results of a mass failure of rice one year would cause? Or what the Irish potato famine was like, but then scale that up for half of the world’s population. There are of course other factors that could cause a crop failure, e.g. weather or pollination failure.

And then there are the resources these foods take to grow and the impact that monocropping has on wildlife and soil fertility. I have yet to meet or read about any smallholder, veggie grower or allotmenteer who just grows one crop to get them through the year. Instead I would case it has one of the many pleasures of growing or producing your own food is that you get to try different things, some might not do so well in your area, so you try another, or you might not favour the taste / size / shape / colour of a variety, so you try another. 

It is will all this in mind that I have decided to give up wheat (as a staple) for lent. Why wheat not rice or potatoes? I eat a lot more wheat than rice, and potatoes, well, I like them too much to give them up right now. I am not going to give up wheat completely either, just were it is a main ingredient. When I started to look at what I wasn’t going to be able to eat if I gave it up completely, there was very little left I could eat without buying specialised food, and that really isn’t the point of giving up wheat.

My aim for giving up wheat as a staple is to make myself less dependant on it as a food sources, after all I can’t grow it. Lent starts on Wednesday so if you know of any nice food that doesn’t included wheat please let me know.