According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, pulses can contribute to the food security of people everywhere. Because?
Economical and ecological
They’re less expensive to produce than meat and dairy products, and growing them produces much less pollution than factory farming does.
Nutrition and energy
They’re twice as rich in proteins as wheat and three times richer than rice, and they’re excellent replacements for meat in a person’s diet. To make up a balanced protein source, they have to be combined with other plant proteins (e.g., lentils with rice, beans with corn or rice).
A great diversified family
The family of pulses, better known in this part of the world as legumes, contains a fascinating diversity: 19,000 species – herbaceous plants, trees, shrubs and lianas – spread out over almost every type of habitat. A good number of these species have long been extremely important as food for humans. Today, 40 percent of legumes sold in the world come from Canada, the leading producer and exporter of dried peas and lentils.
Legumes or… legumes?
In industry, the term “legumes” is used exclusively for dry seeds (beans, lentils, peas). Species used for the extraction of oil (soybean, peanut) are called “oleaginous.”
For botanists, the word “legume” can refer either to the entire plant or to the edible fruit of it: a pod (or shell) that opens into two valves, each of which carries a series of seeds.
Legumes in your kitchen garden
Peas, beans and broad beans are right at home in our northern gardens. These species, relatively undemanding and highly productive, are easy to grow. No need for indoor seedlings: the seeds are sown directly in open ground.
Broad beans and peas enjoy cooler temperatures. They’re sown early, in spring, around mid-May. Immature pods can be picked when they’re tender (snow peas, green peas), or be allowed to mature and dry on the plant. Over the winter they can be shelled whenever you like for cooking (in soups, for example).
Beans prefer warmth, and are sensitive to frost. They’re sown later, around the beginning of June. Harvesting can be extended by planting a succession of seedlings two weeks apart, up to the middle of July. Beans are picked when they’re young and tender, or the buds can be allowed to dry on the plant to be shelled in winter. Finally, there are plenty of cultivars (yellow, green, mauve, dwarf or climbing) waiting to be discovered!
Don't miss it!
The Great Gardening Weekend is presented from May 27 to 29 at the Botanical Garden.