Today I’m participating in Blogger Action Day for The International Year of the Pulse.
What are Pulses? Legumes, or beans and peas. But not just any legumes. Pulses are specifically bean and pea crops grown solely for use as a dried bean or pea food crop. So fresh black eyed peas would be considered a fresh vegetable (bean) crop, not a pulse crop. However, black eyed peas sown, grown and dried for the purpose of providing a dried food staple that could be shipped, cooked and eaten worldwide are pulses.
Why International Year of the Pulses? To call attention to the pulse as a highly nutritious, easy to grow, good for the environment food that could save the world! Think of pulses as our Global Food Superheroes.
Pulses are highly nutritious, as in high in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Need proof? Say hello to my favorite nutrition website: The World’s Healthiest Foods where you can search for nutritional profiles and articles, recipes and healthy eating tips.
What I love about this website is that they back up their nutritional information with references to articles and studies published in medical and nutritional journals. That lets me know they aren’t just making stuff up, and directs me if I want to do further research.
Pulses are easy to grow. Ever wonder why so many schools grow beans or peas for their plant science units? Because they are easy to grow and grow quickly. Here’s an example, from a science unit I did with my son a couple of years ago:
Pulses are good for the environment because legumes are nitrogen fixing crops. They have nodules in their root systems that draw in a symbiotic soil bacteria called rhizobia. This symbiotic relationship between the roots and rhizobia produces nitrogen compounds that help the plant grow (it self-fertilizes) and compete with other plants (like weeds). Then when the plant dies, nitrogen is released during decomposition and becomes available to other plants (think crop rotation). This reduces the need for fertilizer and weed killer.
Pulses make great main dishes, side dishes and even desserts! Check out the Global Pulse Confederation website for more information, recipes and resources.
Here’s an easy and delicious main dish recipe using pulses I created today!
Lentil & Chickpea Stew
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup rinsed and drained red lentils
1 cup cooked or canned, drained chickpeas
3 to 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, unsalted or low sodium
1-2 teaspoons salt
Handful of fresh greens
Saute carrot, celery and onion in a medium saucepan over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until carrot is beginning to soften and onion is translucent. Add garlic and ginger and saute 2 minutes more. Add the dried spices in to the pan and continue cooking over low heat for another minute.
Place the lentils and chickpeas in the saucepan and stir in the broth. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. After the stew comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Just before serving stir in a handful of mild fresh greens or herbs. I used some baby mustard greens I have growing in a pot on my deck. You could also use basil, arugula, spinach or baby kale.
Serves 4 people, if you’re cooking for a crowd double or triple the recipe!
Note: I have raved about red lentils before! They are nutritious, cook quickly and take on the flavor of whatever they are cooked with. I keep two bags in my pantry at all times because they make the base for a great meal in a flash. If you want to make this dish and don’t have any cooked chickpeas available, just leave them out and increase the red lentil measurement to 1 cup total and serve with some crusty bread or croutons, toasted nuts or coconut for crunch.