Beansprouts can be Killers

Who has time to dampen a little bit of cotton wool, pop some dried mung beans or mustard seeds into it and wait for their beansprouts or cress to grow?

In this speed obsessed, impatient world, nobody. We want our stir fry NOW, not in two days time. We need our egg cress sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch, not next week.

Anyway, if there are producers out there who want to produce cress for 30p a punnet (end cost to the consumer) or bags of beansprouts for £1.50, why shouldn’t we pay them to do so? The cost is negligible to us and important to them. It is little payments like this that keep farmers in production. It’s our social duty to buy, buy, buy. And we don’t have the time, right?

Wrong. We have the time, but we’re not organised. We’re not doing what our parents’ and grandparents’ generations did: planning meals for the week ahead; using storecupboard stock like seeds and beans and flours to ensure that we had the breads and cakes we all love to eat. We’re wondering what we want for tea in the middle of the day, or on the way home from work, or as we’re staring desperately into the fridge.

Wrong on another count, too. The farmers don’t rely on us to buy their packaged beansprouts. “There is no supply without demand.” This is a real quote I heard hiphop artist, Snoop Dogg say on a BBC Radio 1 interview last night. It was one of the only sensible things he said. If we don’t demand the beansprouts, the farmers will find something else to produce.

Mass production has its benefits. It isn’t Magpie’s intention to endorse self-sufficiency; it is an impractical non-solution unless you are young, rich and jobless. Soy sauce, rice, vinegar, flours and many of the fruits and vegetables that are the staples of a varied healthy diet in the West would be impossible without cheap, mass produced exports from around the world. How bored this bird would be on a winter diet of kale, potatoes and beef.

The point is that the E.Coli outbreak in Europe this month could have been avoided. If adults did the things that they learn in year one infants, and grew their beansprouts on cotton wool at home, because they knew on Monday that they were going to have stir fry on Friday, all those people wouldn’t have become infected.

Bags of beansprouts smell most peculiar when first opened anyway, even uninfected ones. And Magpie noted when buying cress for the first time ever about a month ago, that the label purported it to be a mixture of mustard cress and rapeseed.  Rapeseed? Since when did mustard cress become so expensive to produce that something cheaper needed to be mixed into it? How much profit are producers really making?

Magpie vows here and now to document the growing of cress and beansprouts this week.

With any luck, she’ll be eating stir fry and egg sandwiches by Friday.

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About Sakina Murdock

Greedy, creative, gregarious bird, writing from the bonny northern hills of Cumbria's Eden. There's a lot of soul in this place and the inspiration to create is everywhere, even on the bleakest days. Soulfood. Don't just subsist.
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