Growing Crops for Human Consumption
- Broad Beans
Situated in Tayside, along Scotland’s temperate east coast, East Coast Viners is one of the largest producers of broad beans in the UK.
- Field Beans
Field beans are hardier and tolerate cold better than their relative, broad beans. Currently however, we grow as many beans for livestock in Scotland, as we do for human consumption. The majority of beans grown for human consumption are exported to North Africa and the Middle East to use as alternatives to chickpeas in dishes such as falafel and hummus.
Garden Organic give a great guide to growing field beans for human consumption.
Lentils have traditionally been regarded as an unfeasible crop to grow in Scotland. However, recently, there has been growing interest about the crop’s potential with groups of farmers collaborating with food processors, buyers and researchers to advance the position of lentils (amongst other pulses) in Scottish agriculture. Furthermore, in a recent webinar on protein crops in Scotland hosted by the Farm Advisory Service, one of the presenters, an SAC researcher, mentioned that lentils had performed particularly well in their field trials.
Bruce Farms in Perthshire have been growing peas for over 50 years and grow more than half the peas in Scotland. They created Podberry pea snacks which are now available in selected Scottish Morrison stores.
“We wanted to come up with a way for consumers to taste our peas in a new and innovative way but keep the peas natural and nutritious.” – Geoff Bruce, Director, Podberry
- The Pulse Agronomy Guide gives a good overview of growing legumes.
Blue lupins, especially, can be grown in colder, wetter areas. Low alkaloid, “sweet” varieties are best as they don’t require as much soaking before cooking. Due to the high protein and fibre content, lupins can help with weight management as they help people to feel full sooner and stay full longer. Beware if you have a peanut allergy though, as they belong to the same family.
Oats were a staple superfood in Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries, but when whisky was legitimised in 1823 many farmers switched to growing barley for malting.
Oats grow well in our damp, sun-deprived climate. They need little artificial help and are resistant to disease and fungi. From a dietary perspective, oats are one of the top grain sources of amino acids. They also help to lower cholesterol and decrease inflammation.
Oat milk is a popular dairy-free alternative which could easily be produced in Scotland.
- Oat milk sales increased by 70% in 2018 with 23% of Britons using plant milks. Overall, the average person’s consumption of cows’ milk has fallen by 50% since the 1950s.
Aside from its traditional uses in the baking industry, wheat has a new application in the growing vegan market. Seitan is a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat meat-substitute that is made from vital wheat gluten – gluten that has been separated from the starch and other components in flour. It is a great alternative for people adverse to soy products – plus, we can grow it here! Sadly, no vital wheat gluten is currently produced in the UK. It is all imported from the continent. We are working to change that!
- Triticale – Called a “scientific marvel in the world of nutrients”, this hybrid of wheat and rye contains more fibre, nutrients and protein than either of its parent grains.
Currently, the UK imports around 90% of its fruit and veg. With a temperate climate and plenty of rain this makes no sense. With our departure from the EU, it becomes more important that we begin to grow our own. We already have some amazing growers in Scotland. The polytunnel revolutionised horticulture and now, with the arrival of vertical crop growing (see our section on Repurposing Buildings), vegetables can be grown, literally, anywhere.
- Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland provides the definitive guide to Scottish growing. We can only list a few of the many fruits and vegetables here but there are literally dozens more!
Let’s start with the “tried and tested”:
- Broad beans
- Purple sprouting broccoli
- Lettuce (multiple varieties)
Kettle Produce in Fife contract with around 50 farmers throughout Scotland to grow their brassicas, root, and salad veggies.
Other Veggies Widely Grown in Scotland
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (multiple varieties)
- Spring greens
- Mushrooms – from large enterprises such as Mushrooms Scotland Ltd., to smaller circular ones such as Green Grow, mushrooms can be grown indoors and thereby provide a great opportunity to repurpose buildings and develop a new income stream.
Stewarts of Tayside, former sheep and cattle farmers, switched to growing strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and swedes. This proved to be the profitable move that enabled them to buy the farm. Today, they are the largest grower of swedes in the UK and the largest independent soft fruit grower in Scotland.
During the summer of 2020, the James Hutton Institute harvested the first batch of their newly bred variety, the ‘Ben Lawers’ blackcurrant. Given that blackcurrants require a cold winter spell so that they may fruit in the summer, this variety was bred to cope with the increasingly milder and shorter winter chills brought upon by climate change, allowing the crop to bear fruit in spite of this. Dr Dorota Jarret at the James Hutton institute hopes this will be the first of many more climate resilient crops to come, and notes that several other trials are currently ongoing.
Angus Soft Fruits in Arbroath declared their profits up by 37% in 2019 to £1.327 million
Honeyberries have been widely cultivated in Japan and Russia, and are gaining traction as a valuable berry crop in Scotland. The crop boasts superior levels of micro-nutrients to other fruits and has accordingly been grown in numerous orchards ranging from the highlands to the borders, although the majority of their production has been located in central eastern Scotland. While the fruit can be eaten fresh, it can also be a great addition to other foods like jam, ice cream and smoothies. The Scottish Honeyberry Growers cooperative has more information on honeyberries as well as opportunities for purchasing and growing this crop.
– Gina Bates of Highland Veganics
- Sweet chestnuts
– Gina’s next project!
Gina Bates of Highland Veganics in Sutherland planted 312 hardy hybrid hazelnut trees on her 80-acre croft. Gina consulted with expert nut growers before planting 6 different varieties. In 2-4 years time, Gina hopes to have a yield of around 12 kilos of nuts per tree per harvest.