As many of you may know, I have given up meat and am pursuing a plant-based diet. Fortunately for me, the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. This means more recipes and more information on how to cook with pulses, which are key to a plant-based diet. One cannot help but eat more beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas!
Pulses are a subgroup of legumes, members of the Leguminosae family (commonly known as the pea family), that produce edible seeds. Pulses are harvested for their seed. To use beans as an example, green beans eaten off the vine are legumes but since they are green (not matured or dried) they are considered a vegetable. Let the pods dry on the vine and shell them to release the dry beans/seeds and they are considered a pulse.
Pulses are excellent sources of fiber, protein, iron, and potassium; are gluten and cholesterol free; are low in fat and sodium; and have a low glycemic index. Cheap and easy to find, pulses are sold in grocery stores in cans or bags where canned vegetables and beans or bags of dried beans/lentils and rice are shelved.
Today, I took the “pulse pledge” — I pledged to eat pulses once a week for 10 weeks. As a family we actually do eat them often: my 15-bean stew, refried beans in tacos, hummus, and lentil chili. But taking the pledge will encourage me to try new recipes from the online sources below.
As a gardener, I pledged to myself to grow a pulse this summer. Although I grow green beans every year, I have never grown a “pulse” or I should say I have never grown a shelling bean. I just purchased Tiger Eye from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in my first round of seed purchases and am continuing to look at other catalogs (see below). Shaped like a kidney bean, Tiger Eye is a beautiful brown mustard color with maroon swirls. It is supposed to taste like a pinto bean but creamier and can be used like a refried bean or in soups and stews. Many of the shelling beans are beautifully colored or marked beans with intriguing names such as Jacob’s Cattle, King of the Early, and Black Turtle. Grow shelling beans like green beans only let the pods dry on the vine. In the fall, probably late October in my Northern Virginia zone 7 garden, when the plant is mature, the leaves are brown, and the pods rattle in the wind, cut the pods off, take the beans out, and store the beans in a dry, cool place.
For 2016, take the pulse pledge and learn to cook beans, lentils, split peas, and chickpeas. Better yet, try growing your own!
Resources for more information on pulses including recipes:
Cookbooks that can be downloaded:
Sources of shelling beans (nursery seed catalogs):