Can our food simultaneously be good for our health, the environment, and animal welfare?
My view is that price measures can help to move things in the right direction, but unfortunately recent market studies have reported more sizeable price rises for healthy foods than for unhealthy ones. In my opinion, economic and fiscal policies could be used, for instance, to encourage people to eat more healthily, using taxes and targeted subsidies, because price is a big influence on what people eat.
And clearly, what we eat dictates what happens at the production level, whether in relation to animal welfare or in relation to the environmental repercussions. Effectively, the choice of the food we eat has an influence, beneficial or otherwise, on the environment (climate, water quality and soil condition) and animal welfare – specifically, by opting for local, seasonal, organic products, as opposed to products that do not take sustainability-related factors into account. It’s true that high-quality foods which are certified “sustainable” are often more expensive, because their pricing takes hidden costs into account. By “hidden costs”, I mean the secondary costs generated by the negative consequences of low-price production, in other words the negative effects of irresponsible chains of production, across all aspects, some of which will only become apparent later, when the scarcity of fertile soils and drinking water and global warming will make our lives considerably more expensive.
Faced with this compelling realisation, it is important to get people involved, and particularly to teach our children what the criteria are for healthy and responsible food. Through vegetable gardens in schools, cookery lessons and farm visits, young people are learning the importance of healthy soil and the extent to which drinking water and insects are essential. They are also discovering that growing vegetables is just a question of patience and caring for them. In our experience, children – including those who are most negative about vegetables – come to love vegetables which they have grown and harvested themselves.
My recipe of the month
My nutritional advice
The potato is one of the rare carbohydrates to contain vitamin C, known for its antioxidant properties and promoting better absorption of iron. In order to best preserve the vitamins and minerals in potatoes, it is recommended to store them away from the light, and to cook them by steaming them in their skins. In fact, peeling them before cooking encourages the vitamins and minerals to be given off into the cooking medium. A 300 g serving of potato provides on average 42% of daily requirements in vitamin C.
Additionally, extended cooking at high temperature in the oven, crushing the potato after cooking (e.g. by pureeing) or cutting into sections before cooking (in the oven or frying) causes the potato’s glycaemic index to increase. That translates as a faster release of simple sugars and a higher level of glucose in the blood following digestion.
Of all the nuts, walnuts are the richest in polyunsaturated fatty acids and in Omega 9. Many studies have highlighted their protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and even cancer of the colon.
Walnuts are rich in vitamin B, and in selenium, zinc and copper, three minerals that stimulate the immune system. This enables them to boost metabolism and to be the perfect defence against loss of energy and bouts of fatigue. Their high fibre content also makes this nut an aid in the event of sluggish transit. At the start of winter, a walnut cure proves highly effective in warding off viruses.
My wild pickings
Ground elder (aegopodium podagraria) is one of those plants most gardeners hate. That’s because the more you cut it back, the more it grows, and it takes over your garden. So what’s to be done? Why, eat it, of course! And the pleasing thing is that it’s an excellent wild vegetable, amongst the most nutritious and abundant.
This aromatic plant with its “parsley-carrot-celery” flavour has a number of particular characteristics: entirely glabrous (hairless), it is distinguishable by its finely-serrated leaves and its “V”-shaped stem. If you rub the leaves between your hands, it gives off a pleasant citrus fragrance.
The young leaves, harvested between April and June when they are still tender and shiny, are delicious raw. Added at the end of cooking, they lend a pleasant fragrance to salads, pesto, soups or risottos.
At the end of the season, when they lose their shine but are still tender, they can be cooked with a cheese topping, or in a quiche or soufflé. The umbrella-shaped flowers can even be coated in batter and deep-fried. In autumn, the plentiful regrowth can be used in salads.
In short, rather than being their enemy, ground elder deserves to be the gardeners’ friend!