Many people are turning to vegan meat alternatives to reduce their carbon footprints. Whether you eat an entirely vegan diet, or simply try to cut down on meat consumption, thinking more deeply about what you eat can be a more eco-friendly choice. It can help you avoid being a part of the problem of our climate crisis. And instead help make sure you are part of the solution.
Everything that you need in your diet excepting vitamin B12 can be obtained by eating an entirely vegan diet. You can meet almost all of your dietary needs on a healthy vegan diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses and legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, and B12 can easily be obtained by eating or drinking products fortified with this vitamin.
The great news is that with a little work and the right approach, you can grow much of the food you need at home. Investing in a polytunnel will save you a lot of money long term, helping you grow healthy, sustainable, organic food year round.
Protein Alternatives To Meat
You definitely do not need to eat meat to get a protein rich diet.
Vegan Meat Alternatives: Plants Which Offer a ‘Complete’ Protein Source
As you may or may not recall from high school science lessons, protein is made up of amino acids, nine of which must be obtained from the food we eat. A ‘complete’ protein source is one which provides all these essential amino acids. All meat, seafood, eggs and dairy are compete protein sources – but you can still get enough of all the essential amino acids through a vegetarian or vegan diet. Even if you are unable to rear your own livestock or keep any animals, you can still make sure your home-produced diet is rich in protein – doing a service to our planet by eschewing meat and dairy while you are at it. Complete protein sources include quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed and soy beans.
Quinoa is relatively easy to grow at home and the good news is that it will grow in a wide range of climatic conditions. It is related to chard and beetroot and it will produce a quantity per plant, so require far less space to grow than common grains like wheat. Space your quinoa seedlings around 2ft apart and expect the plants to grow almost 6ft tall (when they will require staking). Quinoa can be used to replace rice in a wide range of recipes.
Combining Whole Grains and Pulses
It is easier than you might imagine to get all the amino acids you require in a vegan diet. Though most plant-based protein sources are not ‘complete’, you can easily combine two or more vegetarian foods to make sure you are getting all the amino acids. One easy to remember combination that gives all a combined complete protein is a grain, such as rice, wheat, or any other wholegrain, plus a pulse such as any peas, beans or lentils. Substitute the grain for quinoa and you are doubling up on some amino acids for a super protein-rich meal.
No matter what your climate, you will be able to grow some peas or beans. Garden peas, broad beans and a variety of different green beans are amongst the easiest legumes to grow. There is also the added benefit that legumes (along with organisms on their roots) take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil, where it can be taken up by the plants that need it to grow. There are legumes for every climate zone – broad beans are tolerant of colder climates, while pigeon peas are particularly useful for areas of heat and drought. Some beans and peas are eaten fresh and green, while others are dried or preserved for later use. By preserving crops for later, you can have a more consistent source of protein from your garden all year long.
Other Good Plant Sources Rich in Protein
Potatoes are one vegetable that is surprisingly rich in a number of amino acids. Anyone can grow potatoes and they are probably one of the best vegetables for beginner gardeners to try. Combine it with a range of other sources of other amino acids and it can help you reach your protein requirements for each day.
Leafy greens are also excellent sources for certain amino acids. Kale and broccoli are fantastic for cooler climates, for example, while collard greens and amaranth are fantastic leafy greens for hotter climes.
Wherever you live, growing as wide a variety of leafy greens and other vegetables as possible, as well as grains, pulses and nuts, will help you to make sure you eat a healthy and protein-rich diet that does not cost the earth.
Home Grown Vegan Meat Alternatives That Won’t Leave You Craving Meat
Even though we know that we don’t need to eat meat, we may still sometimes want the texture and taste of meat. Of course, there are plenty of vegan meat substitutes that you can buy. But if you are trying to take a more DIY approach, here are some vegan meat alternatives that you might potentially be able to grow the ingredients for and make at home:
Vegetarian Substitute for Chicken
If you grow soy beans in your garden, these can be used to make soy milk. And this soy milk can be used to make tofu, which is a popular substitute for chicken in a vegan diet. All you’ll need to buy is the nigari or another option to coagulate the tofu.
You can also consider making tempeh (by fermenting soy beans) as a substitute for chicken.
Cultivating certain mushrooms at home can also yield results resembling chicken when cooked and prepared in the right ways.
Vegan Pork/ Bacon Alternatives
If you have a large enough garden, growing your own wheat can be a great idea. And wheat cannot only be used to make breads and other baked goods. You can also use it to make seitan – another popular meat alternative made from wheat gluten and other flavourings and ingredients.
You can make a seitan barbecue recipe as an alternative for pulled pork, for example, or seitan bacon.
If you are an adventurous gardener with a polytunnel, you may even be able to grow bananas at home. And another vegan meat alternative, believe it or not, involves using banana peels to make banana peel pulled pork or banana peel bacon.
Best Vegan Mince Alternatives
If you are craving a mince dish like shepherd’s pie, bolognaise etc.. then of course you can purchase a sustainably sourced soy mince, or Quorn mince.
But pulses and beans can also often be a great home-grown alternative to minced meat and you might not need a meat substitute to make vegan versions of these delicious dishes.
These are just some tips to help you see just some of the things you can grow at home that can help you find vegan meat alternatives and reduce or eliminate meat from your diet.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.