To be, or not to be? On the question of health, younger and older consumers in Britain are deciding the answer is yes. Increasingly, individuals are actively shifting their dietary habits, and as a consequence will have direct impact on planetary health.
The key word is 'shift'. Our challenge is not about taking sides or joining a tribe (vegans,vegetarians, flexiterians, meat-lovers). We can agree that a shift is needed. It's about taking personal decisions to feel and to live better. It's about finding ways to adjust ones life-style around healthier eating.
The 2BHEALTHY project all started with the common or haricot bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), a popular source of plant-based protein and dietary fibre for humans the world over. It's an iconic main-stay in the UK diet. Or is it? The unfortunate fact is that none of the white haricot beans currently consumed by British consumers (from millions of tins every year) are actually grown here. The raw ingredient of dry beans are imported from countries like the USA, Canada and Ethiopia.
Building upon MAFF funded research in the 1970-80s, scientists from Warwick University have been working to develop new varieties of haricot beans in a spectrum of colours that can thrive in our climate and be a commercially viable crop. 'Capulet' is the first newly registered variety of bean from this research and is currently being trialed on farms right here in the UK. It's nutritious, tasty and versatile - and we're excited!
This humble haricot bean is a new homegrown ingredient to help us shape the future of healthier eating in a Greener Britain. It's currently a weak link in the British food system. As a legume, it can help farmers put vital nitrogen back into the soil by a beneficial association with Rhizobium bacteria. As a food ingredient, it's nutritious (excellent source of prebiotic dietary fibre, protein and iron) and versatile in a wide menu of delicious recipes.
Our closed-loop thinking starts with us, consumers, as active participants in our food system. Capulet and future new varieties will be fast-cooking, so more convenient to prepare at home from dry seeds instead of from tins. What's most exciting? These beans will combine well with a range of traditional British-grown vegetables like alliums (leeks, onions, garlic) and root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, beetroot); and with protected crops like tomatoes and chilies. And for omnivores, what's better than combining British grown haricot beans with British produced cheese, sausage or egg?
We are just getting started, so our current supply of British haricot beans are limited. We are focusing start-up with food preparers (chefs and bakers) who can help us experiment, as they develop their businesses to serve wholesome foods from homegrown ingredients and with a passion for planetary health.
The idea: small loops of food preparers-consumers-producers can grow larger, and replicate.