green bean sabzi (WFD 2014)

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feed the hungrysummary: recipe for green bean sabzi; reminder about those in need and that October 16 is World Food Day; FAO’s World Hunger Map 2014 | Prevalence of Undernourished in the Population; list of some of the aid organizations working to feed the hungry; (click on images for larger views)

green beans sabzi The other day, we were surprised to see that green beans were priced at around $2/lb (yes, I know; Canada supposedly went metric eons ago. But, don’t get me started that most stores have not managed to make the switch…). Other vegetables were also priced on the high side even though we are celebrating Thanksgiving and the local harvest.

But we love green beans (so does the furry black fiend) so we bought some anyway.

And then as we were paying, we remembered that California is undergoing a drought. And so is Central America.

So. The next time you gasp in horror that your garden tomatoes didn’t do so well because it didn’t rain as much as you thought it would when you went away on holiday, it would be a good idea to do a reality check.

Here’s what drought really means:

Central America is seeing one of the worst droughts in decades. Images in the media are filled with stunted corn crops, parched land, and starving cattle. The El Niño affect has meant that rains came late and insufficiently. […] In a region where subsistence farmers depend on their harvest for both their family’s food and for income, this means that many families don’t have enough to eat until they can produce the next harvest.”
-Elizabeth Scambler, Drought, food security and migration in Central America, September 17, 2014

There are plenty of local fruits and vegetables available right now, but in the winter, I’m pretty certain that many of the fruits and vegetables we see in the supermarket must be coming from Central America. So this drought is very likely to affect us as well.

But most of us here are in a better position to deal with this, aren’t we?

While we haven’t made anything that is specifically Central American, (indeed we don’t really know what dishes are made there), we do know that many of the ingredients we use all the time originated from and are still grown there: avocadoes, chillies, corn, chocolate, peanuts, potatoes and tomatoes.

Green beans and other beans, such are kidney beans, navy beans and black beans are all known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are all referred to as “common beans,” probably owing to the fact that they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru. From there, they spread throughout South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes. They were introduced into Europe around the 16th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World, and subsequently were spread through many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
-Whole Foods, Green Beans

Our data clearly indicate a Mesoamerican origin of the common bean. […] The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is the main grain legume for direct human consumption, and it represents a rich source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, especially for the poorer populations of Africa and Latin America. […] The current distribution of the wild common bean encompasses a large geographical area: from northern Mexico to northwestern Argentina.
– Elena Bitocchi, et al, Mesoamerican origin of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is revealed by sequence data, PNAS, April 2013

One of our favourite new (well, new to us) ways to prepare green beans hales, not from Central or South America, but from yet another area of the world where there is an excess of truly hungry people: India.

This recipe is truly wonderful way to prepare green beans, potatoes and tomato:

Green bean sabzi
based on T’s brother’s recipe that learned from the Indian ladies who wash dishes at his restaurant

serves 2

  • good shot oil and/or butter
  • 3-4 whole dried chilies
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • good shot green beans cut into bite size pieces (or not)
  • 1 medium potato, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  1. Pour oil/butter into a large non-reactive frying pan along with the dried chilies. Cook the chilis over medium heat until they begin to turn dark.
  2. Add onions and saute until they are beginning to soften. Add ginger, and garlic and continue to cook until the onions are barely beginning to colour.
  3. Add turmeric, beans and potato and fry for 3 to 4 minutes more.
  4. Add garam masala and salt; continue cooking 2 to 3 more minutes.
  5. Add tomato, cover and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

Serve immediately with rice, dahl, and another contrasting vegetable, such as beet thoran.

It’s likely that, if they had been in India, the ladies who showed T’s brother this recipe would have made the dish using long beans rather than green beans. But being resourceful, they have adapted their recipes to use the vegetables that are readily available to them.
Please note that the ladies used fresh serrano chilies. If we had fresh green chilies, we would probably use them but dried chilies are always on hand in our house, so that’s what we used.

green beans sabzi Whenever we eat Indian food, I can’t help thinking about our amazing trip to India many years ago. The sights and sounds and aromas and spices and colours. And the people! So many people! Wealthy people driving mercedies, affluent people driving Ambassadors and/or strolling, middle class people riding scooters and/or strolling, poor people working/washing/jumping onto overcrowded busses. And, of course, painfully emaciated destitute people standing/sitting/lying in one place, reduced to begging.

Sadly, there is still distressing news:

Thanks to steady economic growth over the past decade, India was classified as a (lower) middle-income country by the World Bank in 2012. However, despite economic growth and self-sufficiency in food grains production, high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition persist in India. An estimated 32.7 percent of the Indian population lives on less than US$ 1.25 per day. The country is home to a quarter of all undernourished people worldwide.
–, India

But looking across the world to an area that gave us so much of the food that is grown and eaten globally, the situation is far more dire:

With one in every four children suffering from chronic malnutrition, one doesn’t have to look far in Honduras to find a child in desperate need of food. Food insecurity does not only affect children. It also impacts all sectors of this country, especially the rural population, 75 percent of whom live in extreme poverty.
–, Honduras

Staple crop producers in the so-called ‘Corredor Seco’ (Dry Corridor) of the Central American, which spans Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, have been severely affected by a drought caused by the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon. It has the most prolonged drought in 40 years, according to the regional meteorological services. […] Although the drought has had differentiated impacts in each of the four countries, overall more than 500 000 families (over 2 million people) are facing a situation of food insecurity due to losses in agricultural production and livestock as well as the loss of income from daily labour.

– Relief Web, Worst drought in 40 years puts more than 2 million people in Central America at risk (October 2014); Pakistan: Floods – Jul 2010

FAO World Hunger Map 2014 On the FAO’s World Hunger Map 2014 | Prevalence of Undernourished in the Population, it says: “About 805 million people […] were chronically undernourished in 2013-14 with insufficient food for an active and healthy life. […] Southern Asia, with over half a billion, has the highest number of the chronically hungry“. The dark pink areas are 25%-34.9% and the red areas are 35% and over.

If you’re still with me, you’ll have guessed where I’m going. That’s right. It’s essential that we “haves” subsidize the “have-nots”.

And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about the fact that you just gave a donation to the local food bank. And your taxes have gone up. Again. And fuel prices are continually rising. Which means that along with your household heating costs, food prices this winter will rise as well.

But as you’re thinking about that, you might also think about what you will pay for coffee tomorrow morning as you are dashing to work, still basking in the Thanksgiving feasting of this weekend. And those muffins on the counter will look awfully good, so you will get one of those too. It will come to around $5, won’t it?

Here’s an idea. On World Food Day, when you stop for coffee and a muffin, virtually invite one or two of the hungry poor to come with you by sending the price of their morning coffee and muffins to a reputable aid organization. Let’s start World Food Day early.
No, wait.
Let’s say that every day is World Food Day.

World Food Day - 16 October World Food Day is a yearly event put together by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to raise funds to feed the world’s chronically hungry.

World Food Day 2014

World Food Day, 16 October 2014
Feeding the world, caring for the earth

The 2014 World Food Day theme – Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” – has been chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. It focuses world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. […]

[A]bout 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012-14.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Please read more about World Food Day:

empty bowl There are impoverished and hungry people everywhere in the world. And there are many organizations attempting to feed these people. Here are just a few possibilities. Please look in your community for others:

Please remember when giving your donations to ensure that the relief agency you have chosen already has operations set up in the area. Also, it’s a good idea to ask their advice about whether it is best to specify “greatest need” on your donation. They know best where the moneys really need to go.

And don’t forget about these sites online.


Bloggers Against Hunger Bloggers Against Hunger
Working together with the World Food Programme to fight hunger.


There is enough food in the world to feed everyone adequately; the problem is distribution.
Food Security, World Health Organization

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