In this episode
This episode is all about the concept of “Eating More Plants”. In recent years we have seen a growth in plant based diets and products, and numerous studies have shown that some people are increasing the amount of plant based foods in their diets and cutting back on their daily meat intake.
As some of society are increasingly leaning towards a more plant based diet, we want to explore this concept and delve deeper into this issue. Scientists have warned that rising global meat consumption is likely to have a devastating environmental impact on the planet, but research has also revealed that switching from the average western diet to a more plant based or flexitarian diet could decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
So to start this episode Mick brings together three people for a very special meal and to chat about the topic of eating more plants. We then head to Dublin to talk to radio host Andrea Gilligan to get a view about the publics opinion on this issue. Next Mick is heading to Kildare and to one or Ireland’s top restaurants, AIMSÍR to chat to chef Jordan Bailey about how putting veg front and centre on the plate can be just as good as any meat dish. Then we’re in Kilkenny to chat with grower Pat Fitzgerald about some very alternative vegetables that can be grown here in Ireland and may one day become a staple on our dinner plates. We talk to Operation Transformations Sophie Pratt about a more plant based diet, Sophie is a registered Dietian. Gillian Neilis – We speak the the editor of Food & Wine Ireland to get the insight on the plant based market here in Ireland. And to finish the episode we speak to two guys Jack Popeley & Mark Grace who have set u a VEGAN fast food truck in one of Dublins food spots – The Place Food Yard
- “A Dinner Conversation” – Alannah Wrynn, Orla Walsh & Kieran Sullivan. Co Waterford
- “The Public Perception” – Newstalk, Andrea Gilligan, Co Dublin
- “Putting Veg Front & Centre” – Aimsír, Jordan Bailey, Kildare
- “Growing more Alternative Veg” – Beotanics, Pat Fitzgerald, Kilkenny
- A Dinner Conversation” – Alannah Wrynn, Orla Walsh & Kieran Sullivan. Co Waterford
- “Plant Based Diet” – Sophie Pratt
- “Plant-based in the Press” – Gillian Nelis
- “Vegan Fast Food”- Jack Popeley & Mark Grace
Operation Transformations Sophie Pratt was born in Dublin, raised on a family farm, developed a love for fitness and nutrition and as a result qualified with a BSc in Human Nutrition from UCD and Level 4 Certificate in Exercise Health and Fitness from University of Limerick . From there she furthered her studies obtaining a MSc in Dietetics from University Ulster Coleraine. She is a CORU registered dietitian and a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.
After working in a number of hospitals across Ireland and the UK, Orla Walsh founded Orla Walsh Nutrition (O.W.N.) in 2011. Orla’s ambition was to create a clinic in which well respected, highly skilled Registered Dietitians could work from.
Orla has a thirst for knowledge that cannot be quenched. When not working, studying, or looking after her 2 gorgeous children, she can be found on a mountain side hillwalking, escaping for camping adventures, or cooking for family and friends.
Alannah Wrynn is an eighteen year old activist, and 6th year student from Dunmanway, West Cork. Growing up on a farm, the natural world has always played an important role in her life and she has actively campaigned with Fridays for Future Cork for a just transition to more sustainable methods of food production and protection of Ireland’s biodiversity. She is a
public speaker and delegate of the National Youth Assembly of Ireland on Climate, and also served as Chairperson of Comhairle na nÓg (Youth Council) from 2020-2021. She formed part of the Future Generations Climate Justice Program with the YMCA and National Youth Council of Ireland creating Ireland’s first ever climate justice charter
Jack Popeley & Mark Grace
Founders of Vegan Fast Food spot YumGrub in Dublin. Yumgrub is a vegan restaurant in Dublin that has won multiple awards for their delicious plant-based takeaway food.
Michelin Star chef, formally of Aimsir restaurant.
Since founding FitzGerald Nurseries in 1990, Pat has been internationally recognised as an innovator in the plant industry. From early in his career he has served as chairman of Ireland’s Nursery Association, as a member of the European Nursery Association Committee in the 90s. As an innovator in International horticulture, Pat has proven his ability to develop and produce new plant varieties for international markets and work with other breeders in maximising their genetics. Pat’s overall responsibility is for strategic management of product and strategic client development for the company.
Managing editor at The Business Post and editor of Food & Wine Magazine, Gillian has over 25 years experience in journalism with a deep passion for food.
Kieran Sullivan is a part-time sheep farmer in south-east Ireland. He and brother Tony manage a mid-season lambing flock in addition to 13 hectares of forestry on the family farm. Kieran works off-farm on IT research projects, covering subjects such as telecommunications and data analytics. He is a regular contributor to various agriculture-related publications, in addition to being a folk singer and guitar player.
Presenter Lunchtime Live on Newstalk. Weekdays 12-2pm
Eat More Plants
Across the world, we collectively eat just 1% of all the edible plant species we can eat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, there are between 20,000 and 50,000 discovered edible plant species, which is a hefty selection of plants to start adding to your plate. But the truth is, only 150 to 200 are regularly consumed by humans. In fact, 75% of all the food eaten in the world come from just 12 plants and 5 animal species. The reason for this is economic efficiency, but an industry so deeply embedded in the health of our planet and ourselves can’t play by standard economic rules. There is still so much food out there for us to discover. If we want to create more sustainable plates of food, we need to understand more about all foods – the ones we grew up with and the new plant-based alternatives.
Animal agriculture is the biggest driver of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, and moving to a plant-rich diet is therefore one of the most impactful things a person can do to address climate change. However, the more diverse that plant-based diet is, the better. And the tastier it will be too. More often that not, this whole discussion becomes a Punch & Judy debate – part of our growing list of growing culture wars. Consider these questions:
- If you suggest plant based diet are you automatically anti meat, anti rural Ireland?
- Is there room for compromise? Is there room for change?
- Can the world produce enough meat to feed our growing population?
- Is a meal with no meat enough food?
- What is the alternative to meat or plant based?
- Is plant based eating always nutritious?
- Should I REALLY be eating lentils and drinking almond milk instead of the meat and dairy milk that I grew up with?
Eating Plants for Health
There is always a lot of discussion around the nutritional value of a more plant based diet so if you replace meat with plant based, what is the effect? Well let’s not forget that the health benefits depend on what you replace the meat with, it still has to have all the essential nutrients so you are not missing out. You could be completely vegetarian and live on four cheese pizzas and chocolate – but we wouldn’t recommend this for your health.
It has been widely reported that eating a more plant based diet is beneficial, but why are more people not switching? A new major analysis suggests meat consumption is set to climb steeply as the world population increases along with average individual income, and could play a significant role in increasing carbon emissions and reducing biodiversity.
Take milk, for example. We know cow’s milk is good for our bones and full of calcium and nutrients. But from an environmental perspective, it creates three times the greenhouse gas emissions of dairy milk alternatives, such as almond, oat, soya and rice milk. But with so many non-dairy options available now, it can be hard to know what is truly sustainable and good for you.
The reality is that non-dairy milks have a lower carbon footprint than cow’s milk. Even almond and rice milks, both notoriously thirsty crops, need less water than dairy milk to produce. Yes, the plants need water to grow and they have to be processed, packaged and transported, so there is an environmental impact. But it is still less than dairy milk.
But what if there was a locally grown plant-based alternative to milk from Irish cows? Well, there is, and it’s created from the humble oat. Irish farmers have been producing oats for millennia. In fact, in 1850 oats (and not potatoes) were the most commonly sown crop in Ireland, because they grow well in the Irish climate.
Since the 1850s, there has been a significant reduction in the land given to growing oats in Ireland. Will this change now that Irish farmers see the growing customer demand for plant-based milk alternatives? Could they claim their market share?
If you are looking for a non-dairy milk, oat milk can be the most sustainable alternative milk option, especially if produced using organic, Irish oats, like Flahavan’s, whose oats are grown within an 60-mile radius of their mill in Co. Waterford. However, it’s even more sustainable if you make your own oat milk using organic Irish oats – it’s simple to do and you can find step-by-step instructions online.
Did You Know?
Pumpkin & Creme Fraiche, Peanut Rayu, Scallion & Coriander
A great big family salad perfect for sharing of for a summer bbq. Can use coconut yoghurt instead of dairy for vegans or plant based eaters. Peanut rayu is a sweet salty condiment. Try find creme fraiche with a high fat content. The french ones are finger licking good.
- Pumpkin cut into wedges skin on( life’s too short it’s so easy to take off once on your plate)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- One jar of peanut rayu
- Creme fraiche or coconut yoghurt for a vegan alternative
- Spring onion chopped into thin discs
- Coriander, pickled
Preheat the oven to 190*C.Take the seeds out of the pumpkin and with the skin on cut wedges. Place them in a bowl and season with salt pepper and oil
Place in a hot oven making sure to not overcrowd the tray, give lots of space so can roast properly. Cook for 35 min or until browned maybe slightly blackened at the corners and a knife goes through the flesh.
Let cool slightly. Can cook these wedges ahead of time the morning of or night before a party.
Place on a big serving dish. Rustic style. Add some dollops of creme fraiche add some spoonfuls of Peanut Rayu and then finish with some maldon salt, cracked black pepper and some sprinkles of spring onion and pickled coriander.
Roasted Pea Soup
A fresh and vibrant but still filling and hearty meal that is quick, simple and utterly moreish. Serve with a chunk of buttered sourdough bread.
- 250g fresh peas, shelled (or frozen green peas)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided in two
- 1 leek, white and light green parts, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 100ml dry white wine
- 500 ml chicken or veg stock
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°c. If using fresh peas, add to a pot of salted boiling water and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes until tender, and then drain. Toss peas with 1 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread in a single layer over a large baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, tarragon, and thyme; season with salt and pepper; and cook 2 minutes more. Pour in the wine and cook until it’s almost completely reduced.
Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, stir in the peas, and cook for about 2 minutes. Use a blender or food processor to purée the soup. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
Kohlrabi, Carrot & Green Onion Slaw
While coleslaw is traditionally made with cabbage this version gives us the chance to use the fiercely underrated kohlrabi. You can also use vegan mayonnaise to make a dairy free version.
- 1 medium kohlrabi
- 1 carrot
- 1 green onion
- A handful of walnuts
- A handful of raisins
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tbs of mayonnaise(or vegan alternative) or natural yoghurt
Peel and grate the kohlrabi and the carrot and put in a large bowl. Chop the green onion and add it to the bowl with the walnuts and the raisins. Add the juice of the lemon and the mayo and stir well to combine it all. Season to taste. You could also add a little handful of chopped parsley.
Wild Garlic Pesto
Pesto can be expensive to buy particularly at this time of the year, when the key ingredient (basil) is unseasonal. Instead of basil, we use wild garlic leaves which are completely free and abundant at this time of the year. The pesto keeps well in the fridge for a week.
- 120g of Parmesan cheese, grated
- 350ml of extra virgin olive oil
- 100g of pine nuts
- 200g of wild garlic leaves, stems cut off, washed and dried
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add a little more oil if you prefer a looser consistency. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and taste. Transfer to clean jars and top with an extra drizzle of oil to create a seal. The jars will keep in the fridge for at least one week.
BBQ Broccoli With Balsamic Black Garlic & Preserved Lemon Yogurt Dressing
- 4 bunches of Tenderstem Broccoli
- Red chilli sliced for garnish
- 2 heads of garlic cloves removed and peeled
- Olive oil
- ½ cup Balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp honey
- Rosemary & thyme
- 1 cup of yoghurt
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of preserved lemon cut into small tiny pieces
In a frying pan on a low heat add a generous few glugs of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for 30-40 minutes.
After 20 minutes the garlic should have started to soften and gently caramelise. Test by mushing with a fork then add the balsamic, honey and herbs and give the pan a stir.
Cook out for another 20 minutes or so untill the liquid is all gone and your left with a sticky black in colour garlicky deliocuousness. Taste and make sure the vinegar and sweetness is balanced correctly.
This balsamic garlic can be kept in the fridge for a month or more(really good on roast or fried spuds). Make preserved lemon yoghurt by mixing youghurt, lemon juice and the lemon and blitz with a hand blender.
Season the tenderstem broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper. To cook broccoli use a grill pan or bbq (make sure they are very very hot) and place the broccoli down resisting the urge to move them about. Let them blacken slightly. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Toss the broccoli in a bowl with the balsamic black garlic and tip onto serving plate. Spoon the preserved lemon yoghurt over the top. Garnish with red chilli.
Asian Greens With A Miso Tahini Dressing & Maple Pecans
This dish meal is totally raw but just as delicious as anything cooked in the pan or roasted in the oven.
- 5 TB Tahini
- 2 TB Rice Vinegar
- 2 TB sesame oil
- 2 Tb Miso
- ½ cup of Water
- 1 tbsp Maple syrup
- Asian greens
- Orange cut into segments (blood orange when in season)
- 1 tbsp of wakame
- ½ cup pecans
- 1 tbsp Maple
- 1 tbsp Tamari
- 1 tbsp Sesame Seeds
Put the seaweed into hot water for 5 minutes and leave to soak.Squeeze out water after 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170*C, place your pecans in a bowl with salt pepper, maple and tamari. Roast for 6 minutes. Cut your vegetables and wash your salad. I try not to wash leaves especially if grown locally and organically, Id just look through them and make sure there is no residual dirt or bugs. If I am washing them I fill a sink with cold water and then put the leaves in rather then pouring water straight on them and possibly bruising them. Get a small bowl and add your tahini, rice vinegar , sesame oil, water and maple. It might look like its a little split depending on how oily the tahini is. But fear not the water will bring it all together, salt and pepper and correct the seasoning.
Only assemble salad when ready to eat.
Add all ingredients into a bowl and swirl dressing around the bowl bringing the dressing into it with your hands. Again to not bruise the leaves. Reserve pecans and some segmented oranges for the top. Arrange on a plate/bowl and sprinkle with the tamari pecans. Dressing can be kept in the fridge for a week or so and is really good chucked on a cold green bean salad or to garnish some roast sweet potato…
Growing and eating any food has an environmental footprint, but some foods have a bigger impact than others, especially when it comes to beef. On average, Irish beef produces 19kg of CO2e per kg – that’s 30 times the carbon footprint of a kilo of Irish spuds.
Almost 35% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland come from agriculture, with the powerful pollutant methane accounting for 58% of agricultural emissions.
Ruminant animals, such as cattle, are the main producers of methane, with 90-95% of agricultural methane emitted from their burps and 5-10% through flatulence and slurry storage.
Latest figures put the size of the national herd at 7.3 million, which means in Ireland we have a lot of cows burping and passing wind and contributing to climate change. And reducing those emissions is challenging.
Beef is just one example of the additional strain on our environment associated with diets that rely too heavily on animal-based foods. The numbers show that globally both meat and dairy production are more water, land and greenhouse gas intensive than plant production.
Did You Know?
Practical Steps you can take
Rather than delve into the world of obscure edible plant species, here are three ways you can start introducing more plant-based foods into your diet:
- Be curious – understand better the choices you are making, such as substituting your morning dairy milk flat white for one made with Irish oat milk, and balance that with the support you wish to provide to your local producers and suppliers. This approach can ensure we support those trying to farm and produce foods more sustainably while reducing our own environmental impact, saving some money, and opening our minds to food choices that are healthier and more nutritious.
- Start small. Gradually add variety to your meals by substituting one meat-based meal for a plant-based meal each week – perhaps a lentil bolognaise instead of your usual beef bolognaise? You certainly don’t need to pile your plates high with foods no one in your family recognises seven days a week. Remember eating more plants doesn’t have to be a binary choice, it can also be a spectrum and any move you make towards more plants and less meat is good for the planet and your health.
- Discover new plants to grow and cook, such as celeriac and kohlrabi – these are all perfectly suited for growing in our Irish climate and add plenty of nutritious goodness and delicious taste to your plate.