Three-Cornered Garlic / Leeks

Three-cornered Garlic/Leeks growing

Three-cornered Garlic or Three-cornered Leeks, as they’re also referred to, are a Spring-flowering bulb with white flowers that grow in a bell-like shape. The plant is thought to have originally been introduced to Ireland around three-hundred years ago, with it since becoming naturalised in many counties. It is part of the Daffodil or Amaryllidaceae family. 

The stems are three-sided and grow to a height of approximately 30 cm. A thin green line runs along the center of each flower petal, while between 3-15 flowers grow in a drooping, one-sided umbel, similar to that of a Bluebell. The leaves are angled, with each flower possessing three.

These beautiful edible plants can be found through sight and scent, growing along roadsides, in hedges, banks and other areas that experience large amounts of shade.

The first time I discovered it growing was in a grassy location close to a beach in Co. Waterford but I’ve also seen it growing abundantly along roadsides. You will most likely smell it before you see it, if seeking it out. It has an incredibly pungent and alluring aroma.

Such a potent scent lead to the plant being given a reputation for keeping away vampires! It was hung over windows and doors in the past to keep evil spirits at bay. Anicent Egyptians who built the pyramids thought it more useful to consume the wild and edible plant as part of their diet.

In the late 19th century, Louis Pasteur made observations in relation to its antibacterial properties. Such observations led to its use as a natural measure for the prevention of gangarene during both World Wars. It is still used as a natural remedy for the common cold.

Three-cornered Garlic/Leeks can be used as an ingredient in an array of dishes. Blanching the leaves before use will make their scent and taste less potent when using as a salad ingredient or in pesto. I’ve used them as an ingredient in vegetarian tray bakes in place of regular garlic and onions but they are also beautiful when added to risottos and pasta dishes.

Every piece of the plant can be eaten, including the bulb, stem and the delicate flower.

They’re pretty, they taste wonderful and they’re not easily confused with other wild plants, making them a beginner forager’s delight.

Information taken from: www.wildflowersofireland.net

Minimalism.

Maybe you don’t need to purchase the latest electronic device in order to feel fulfilled. Maybe you don’t need to buy the newest skincare product, promising to meet society’s expectations of beauty. Maybe you don’t need that latest fast fashion piece to give you a fleeting moment of happiness. Maybe you don’t need to live up to the expectations laid down for you not only by society but also by that little voice in your head that says you’re not enough. Maybe it’s okay to be happy with less. To want less. To live with less. To be happy with what and who you have.

Fulfillment will never come from material items. It will never come from spending. You might feel exhilarated when purchasing something new but that feeling rarely lasts. Perhaps this momentary high is filling a void that exists for another reason. Maybe that reason is anxiety, not being content with oneself, attempting to live a life in line with society’s ideals, unaddressed issues in ones personal life, not taking time out to do nice things for yourself – the list of possibilities goes on.

Be gentle and kind to yourself and most importantly, try to be content with simply being.

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation and the Beef Industry

Fire on a farm in the region of Novo Progresso, Pará, on 25 August.
Photograph: Lucas Landau/The Guardian

A Brief Introduction

60% of the Amazon rainforest lies within Brazil – at least it used to. This figure was once accurate, before the deforestation of the Amazon began to rise at an alarming rate, largely due to the growing interest in cattle ranching. Europe, North America, Central America, China and Russia are the biggest importers of Brazilian beef. This has resulted in a reliance on the importation of Brazilian beef, thus supporting and encouraging widespread deforestation throughout the Amazon Rainforest. These facts lead to an important question and one which needs to be addressed quickly if we are to repair the damage already done: Why are we supporting such unsustainable farming practices and the destruction of one of the most important ecosystems on earth? Read on to find out more and about how to make change as a consumer by voting with how you shop.

THE FACTS – CLEAR AND SIMPLE

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of beef. This is something that should warrant celebration. However, there is little to celebrate. The Amazon has lost approximately one-fifth of its forest in the past three decades, according to One Green Planet. As a result of cattle-ranching, trees are being cut down on an exponential scale. Beef farming is responsible for 70 per cent of Amazon deforestation. Such extensive farming is encouraged and supported by the government of Brazil. This support comes in the form of grants and loans worth billions of dollars – it is hardly a surprise that farmers and normal, working people accept these grants in a bid to secure a source of income to provide for their families.

It is clear that education, a reform of government in Brazil and investment in the development of sustainable industry, are required in order to prevent the destruction of the rainforest. The purchasing power of consumers also plays a vital role in protecting the Amazon – by choosing to purchase beef which has originated in your home country, you are making a stand against the unsustainable beef farming methods used in Brazil.

Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, has rejected the fact that the Amazon is burning (a method used to clear the rainforest for cattle ranching). He is intent on claiming that it is a lie. However, a four-month ban on setting fires in the Amazon was announced by the government of Brazil (quite a contradiction of their previous statement), after the country was put under pressure to protect the rainforest.

Such a ban has proved to be a futile effort in protecting the Amazon, after satellite imagery captured in August 2020 showed more than 7,600 fires in Amazones (one of the nine states which forms the Brazilian Amazon).According to an article by Lucus Landao and Tom Philips published by the Guardian, more than 29,307 fires were recorded across the entire Amazon region in August.

A very pessimistic read, I know. But this is a crucial topic which needs to be discussed. If there is to be a world for future generations to live in, issues such as this must be addressed and acted upon now. The rainforests are vital for carbon dioxide absorption. Less trees = higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and a subsequent rise in temperature, ultimately leading to an uninhabitable earth. Not to mention the beautiful species, such as orangutans which we are losing along with the earth’s precious rainforests.

However, consumers have more power than they think. Make a stand with your money. You have purchasing power and you must use it. Buy locally produced beef where possible. If you’re on a budget – reduce your beef consumption or opt for vegetarian alternatives which are very affordable and widely available. Educate yourself on where your meat comes from. In the EU, we are lucky enough to have a great food traceability system in place. You are able to trace the origin of your meat from farm to fork. Do not hesitate in asking your local butcher where your beef has come from. Check the packaging in your local supermarket. Statements such as ‘packaged in Ireland’ probably means that the meat has been imported and has only been packaged in Ireland. If you’re from Ireland, buy Bord Bia quality approved beef where you can – you’ll know it’s Irish beef.

Action is needed immediately in order to save the earth’s rainforests. But change can be made through small steps, taken by ordinary people such as you and I. Educate others on this topic and encourage them to make a stand and fight for the rainforests and every species within them.

Photo by Stuart Jansen on Unsplash

The Yemen Humanitarian Crisis

What is happening in Yemen?

Yemen. A desert country in the Middle East on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It has been severely impacted by a civil war and is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries. A war that was originally forecasted to last a few weeks, has gone on to last five years.

Yemen - Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Source: Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

At the root of the country’s devastation, lies a failed political transition. An Arab Spring uprising lead to Yemen’s long-serving president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, resigning his power in 2011 to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Mr Hadi, upon taking over the presidential role, came into difficulty with issues in the form of jihadist attacks, a separatist movement in the south, the continued loyalty of security personnel to the former president (Saleh), corruption, high levels of unemployment and food security.

The separatist movement in the south, known as the Houthi movement and championing Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, were involved in numerous rebellions in the previous decade which were against Saleh. The new president’s weaker spots were taken advantage of, as the Houthi movement took control of the northern heartland of Saada province and the neighbouring areas.

Many Yemeni civilians, including Sunnis, unaware of what the outcome of the transition would be, supported the Houthi movement, resulting in Sanaa, the capital, being taken over by rebels in late 2014 to early 2015.

Saleh, thought to have supported Houthis who originally fought against him, ensured their loyalty. The result was Houthis and security forces who were loyal to Saleh, attempting to gain control of Yemen and causing Mr Hadi to seek safety abroad in March 2015.

Concerned by the rise of a group associated with the military backing of Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other states, launched an air campaign in an effort to defeat the Houthis, put an end to Iranian influence in Yemen and to restore the former presidents government. Support for the campaign came from the US, the UK and France and resulted in a coalition.

Coalition troops landed in Aden, a southern port city of Yemen, in August 2015, helping to drive the Houthis and their allies from most of the south over the following months. Since establishing a temporary home in Aden, Mr Hadi’s government has had trouble with the provision of basic services and security, resulting in the president remaining in Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis still hold Sanaa and the north-west of Yemen, while also maintaining a siege of the third city of Taiz and launching ballistic missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Both Yemen and Saudi Arabia have large oil production industries. Two of Saudi Arabia’s eastern oil fields were attacked by air in September 2019, causing a disruption to approximately half of the kingdom’s oil production. Although the Houthis claimed to be responsible for the attacks, both Saudi Arabia and the US accused Iran of being responsible for these.

To make matters worse, territory has been seized in the south and attacks carried out in, specifically in Aden, by militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the local affiliate of the rival Islamic State group.

A more restrictive blockade of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition occurred when a ballistic missile was launched in November 2017 towards Riyadh. This blockade was claimed to prevent the smuggling of weapons by Iran to rebels, an accusation denied by Tehran. However, the restrictions lead to significant increases in the cost of food and fuel, ultimately causing major food insecurity throughout Yemen.

The Houthi and Saleh alliance also collapsed in November 2017, due to the occurrence of violent clashes in relation to the control of Sanaa’s largest mosque. Resultant, was the death of Saleh, caused by an operation launched by Houthi fighters to gain full control of the capital.

In June 2018, in an effort to put an end to the war, the Saudi-lead coalition launched a major offensive to capture the Red Sea city of Hudaydah, from the Houthis – its port being a critical lifeline for approximately two thirds of the population of Yemen. The UN warned against the occurrence of a famine, should the port be destroyed, ultimately resulting in a massive loss of life.

Six months on from fighting, a ceasefire was agreed on in Sweden (the Stockholm Agreement). However, there is a fear that the agreement will collapse, leading the fighting to resume.

In July 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a prominent ally of Saudi Arabia in the war, was the subject of international criticism due to its actions. The resultant action was a withdrawal of UAE forces from Yemen.

In August 2019, conflict occurred in the south of the country amongst Saudi-backed government forces and an allied southern separatist movement (the Southern Transitional Council (STC)), who had the support of the UAE.

Forces loyal to the STC, who had accused Mr Hadi of having links to Islamists, seized control of Aden and would not allow the return of the government cabinet, until November of 2019, when Saudi Arabia created a power-sharing deal.

It was hoped that the agreement would put an end to the war. However, in January 2020, there was an increase in fighting between the Houthis and coalition-led forces.

In April 2020, a peace deal signed with the internationally recognised government was broken, due to self-rule being declared by the STC in Aden. This peace deal would have resulted in the internationally recognised government governing the port city and southern provinces.

A unilateral ceasefire announced by Saudi Arabia occurred in the same month due to the coronavirus pandemic. This ceasefire was rejected by the Houthis, who demanded that air and sea blockades should be lifted in both Sanaa and Hudaydah.

The true cost to Yemeni civilians:

By March 2020, the UN estimated the deaths of at least 7,700 Yemeni civilians, in what is described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Many of these deaths are due to the Saudi-led coalition air strikes.

However, the death toll is estimated to be far higher by monitoring groups. In October of 2019, one such group stated that it had recorded more than 100,000 deaths, including 12,000 civilian lives lost because of direct attacks.

In 2019, more than 23,000 deaths were reported. Malnutrition, disease and poor health have also resulted in the loss of life of thousands more civilians. It has been estimated that 85,000 children who were suffering from acute malnutrition, died between April 2015 and October 2018. About 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including a figure of 360,000 children who are struggling daily to survive.

Approximately 80% of the population need humanitarian assistance and protection, while around 20 million people need assistance with securing food. Half of these people are one step away from famine.

As only half of Yemen’s 3,500 medical facilities are fully functioning, it is estimated that almost 20 million people do not have access to sufficient healthcare. While 18 million people do not have access to adequate levels of clean water or sanitation facilities.

On top of these statistics, the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded has occurred in Yemen, resulting in medics struggling to deal with the number of people needing treatment. The outbreak has resulted more than 2.2 million cases and 3,895 related deaths since October 2016. Yemeni civilians are also at risk of infection due to the coronavirus pandemic, which could potentially cause high levels of fatalities due to the lack of functioning medical facilities and PPE in those that are functioning.

In total, the war has displaced more than 3.65 million people from their homes.

How to help:

The following links will lead you to information on ways in which you can help those suffering in Yemen:

https://donate.unhcr.org/int/yemen/~my-donation (UNHCR)

https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/yemen-crisis (UNICEF)

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423

https://www.unicef.org/appeals/yemen_sitreps.html