Category Archives: pulse

Beans on toast revisited

The famous Beans on Toast Project was started 7 years ago by student Sarah Doherty and artist Jean Duncan with Geoff Squire and other members of the Living Field team [1]. The project looked at the origins of this seemingly simple meal.

Not so simple in fact – 10 crops, grown in four continents and using masses of water and other precious resources – the product of a highly complex supply chain leading to a tin, a packet and a tub.

This example of the worldwide growing and sourcing of products that go into the food we eat has been used many times by the Living Field, most recently at a Citizen’s Jury event at the Scottish Parliament in March.

Beans on toast a few years on…

Sarah’s been reflecting on the project. She writes –

“Seven years on, I look back at the ‘water footprint’ for the Beans on Toast project as an eye-opening experience!

It was a reminder that there is a story behind everything. Almost everything we eat has travelled a long way to get on our plates. For so much water to go into the humble beans on toast – it baffles me how much more water and effort goes into producing other things.

I recently took up sewing and have been struck at how expensive it is to buy material for making home-made clothes. When mass- produced for high street stores, clothes may seem easy and cheap. However, making material is an energy and water intensive process too often involving crops for fibres such as cotton and linen. 

I’m certainly more mindful of this now which is why I’m learning to cut my wardrobe down to what I really use and like the most! 

At the Citizen’s Jury Scottish Parliament

Geoff was asked to attend a Citizen’s Jury as a specialist assisting the Jurors with background information on the topic being considered.

He used the Beans on Toast example [2] to show, first, that much of the food we eat is not grown here but imported, and second, that most of our pre-prepared food is made from mixing the products of many different crops grown using the resources of other countries.

Beans on Toast relies on haricot bean, tomato, oil palm, soybean, wheat, maize, sugar cane, paprika, onion, and oilseed rape ….. and that’s just the main ingredients. And the food on one plate of it needs several bathfulls of water.

The famous Beans on Toast project continues …

Beans on Toast is an excellent example to show that we need to use less of other countries’ resources and more of our own.

What’s known as the legume-gap or protein gap – the difference between home grown and imports – is massive. We grow just a few percent of the plant protein needed for feeding peole and farm animals.

We have been adding to the information on sourcing food and estimating how much water and nutrients it takes to grow and process food like this [3]. Beans on Toast lives ….

The supply chain deopicted by a youngster at Wormit Primary School following a visit by Sarah and Jean.

Sources, links

[1] Sarah was studying at Durham University when she worked at the James Hutton Institute for about a year in 2012 . She has kept in touch. She last visited in summer 2018. Jean Duncan who worked with Sarah on educational projects with local schools still works with the Living Field project.

[2] The Citizen’s Jury event was held at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh 29-31 March 2019.

[3] The EU TRUE project runs currently, coordinated at the James Hutton Institute. Among its aims is to study the global food and feed supply chains, to cut waste and and to raise local production. It’s full title is Transition Paths to Sustainable Legume-based systems in Europe https://www.true-project.eu

Contact for this page: geoff.squire@hutton.ac.uk

ScoFu: the quest for an indigenous Scottish Tofu

Chantel Davies writes:

As a long-time vegetarian and fan of Asian food, particularly tofu, in recent years I have limited my consumption of soya due to the sustainability issues of soya production and potential negative impacts on health.

Beginnings

My inspiration grew from a Japanese anime series, ‘Yakitate!! Ja-pan’ (i.e ‘Freshly Baked!! Ja-pan’), which follows the adventures of the young protagonist, Kazuma Azuma, as he follows his passion to invent an authentic Japanese bread of which the Japanese people can be proud. In a similar vein, I have embarked on a quest to produce an authentic Scottish tofu, using local ingredients and some gastronomic daring.

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I acquired some faba bean powder (flour) from the Institute’s Pete Iannetta, who is growing beans in experimental fields at the Dundee site (and using them to create new bean-based products including craft beers).

My first experiment, ScoFu No. 1, was to test the production method and make some technical adjustments. It was marginally successful, but the quantity of final product after pressing resembled a crêpe with a lot of left-over okara (bean pulp). Not really what I was aiming for, though the okara could be used for faba bean falafel – an experiment I will save for another time.

ScoFu No. 2

For ScoFu No. 2, I increased the quantity of ingredients and modified the processes. Firstly, I produced the purée. After a bit of culinary alchemy, and a handy little tofu box, I managed to produce a very neat-looking block of tofu (image below).

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Block of ScoFu made from faba bean (Chantel Davies)

After a little more magical waving and muttering, the tofu became a delight of pan-fried strips, infused with chilli and garlic, served with spicy rice and a dash of soy sauce. The texture, although soft and crumbly, held together nicely when cutting and cooking.

The flavour was definitely faba bean, with a hint of bitterness due to the preparation method (and maybe the coagulant), but also a touch of umami; beany flavours are often preferred in East Asia. On a firmness scale of 1 to 5, with five being very firm, I would put this at 3.5, or ‘momen-dofu’ as the Japanese would say.

A rather delicious stock was produced in the formation of curds, which could form the base of type of miso soup, or vegetable stock.
Whilst this has been a success, there are so many different variables to consider when making tofu that can influence taste, texture and firmness that I feel my adventure has only just begun. Onward to ScoFu No.3!

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Stir fry with ScoFu (Chantel Davies)

Contacts, sources, links

Chantel Davies email: chantel.davies@hutton.ac.uk; c.davies@growing-research.com

The beans used to make the Scofu are locally grown faba beans Vicia faba. 

Also on the Living Field web:

Feel the Pulse – our exhibition on beans at Baxter Park with Dundee Science Centre and Legumes in the Living Field garden.

Related: SoScotchBonnet – our search for the truly indigenous crop.

[Published 27 June 2017; updated with new images 21 July]

Feel the pulse

With Dundee Science Centre, the James Hutton Institute is  contributing to a range of outreach activities in 2016 as part of The Crunch, and initiative headed by the UK-wide Association of Science and Discovery Centres and supported by the Wellcome trust.

Our exhibit at a community-run event in Baxter Park Dundee on 28 July 2016 was called – Feel the Pulse – a display of beans and peas, which along with lentils are known as ‘pulses’ (images below).

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Why pulses? They yield a highly nutritious, plant protein that can be grown without nitrogen fertiliser because the plants themselves fix nitrogen gas from the air into their own bodies. Nitrogen is essential for plant growth, but in its mineral form (from bags of fertiliser) can be a serious pollutant, contaminating streams and drinking water.

Once, peas and beans were widely grown and eaten, but the arrival of industrially made nitrogen fertiliser about 100 years ago and the ready import of plant protein from other countries caused pulses to decline as crops.

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Yet today, pulses are widely acclaimed for their benefits to health and the environment. The field bean Vicia faba crops above were grown locally without nitrogen fertiliser. They also offered a habitat and refuge for insects and small animals.

Is there a way to turn the tide – to farm more locally-grown cereal and legume produce, use less mineral N and support a cleaner environment.

We believe there is but one of the first things to do is to increase awareness of the benefits of peas and beans and similar products.

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Our exhibit – Feel the Pulse – shows some of the things that are being done, such as finding types of peas and beans suited to the local conditions, comparing the nutritional value of different pulses and finding new pulse-based products for the market, for example bean bread and bean beer, both made from field bean flour. 

Sources, links

Feel the pulse at Picnic in the Park, Baxter Park Dundee, 28 July 2016. Part of The Crunch at Dundee Science Centre.

Contact for pulses: pete.iannetta@hutton.ac.uk

At the event: Pete Iannetta, Philip White, Geoff Squire and Stephanie Frischie, a doctoral student visiting from the NASSTEC (Native Seeds) programme: www.nasstec.eu/home

See also: Bere and cricket