Pop your champagne! It’s the Year of the Pulse. Forget the year of the monkey, or the return of the paperbag waist. It’s time to shine a spotlight on the pulse.
If you are wondering, “Why are they celebrating the pulse my heart beat makes when the doctor puts her fingers on my wrist?” let me clear it up for you. This “pulse” is a term, used more often in other parts of the world, for all the dried lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas.
Yup, all the denizens of the bulk bins are getting a whole year to be celebrated. Why? Because they are one of the best foods we have found to get sustainable, portable, affordable nutrition to everybody, from the poorest village in Africa to the toniest townhouse in Manhattan.
The International Year of Pulses was declared by The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and is a bit of a PR campaign to remind people just how crucial the pulse is to solving world hunger. It seems that pulse consumption has been declining, for different reasons in different regions. For some, a rise in economic status leads people to crave higher end foods, like meat and dairy, and to step away from the humble bean. In others, the production of pulses just can’t keep up with demand.
The FAO wants to spend this year educating people on the incredible health benefits and versatility of this valuable food. They are also working to help growers the world over get higher yields, so more people can eat more pulses. Pulses, unlike other plants, actually put nitrogen back into the soil, so that farmers don’t have to buy fertilizer. They are a perfect crop to rotate in with more soil depleting crops. They are also often grown by women in Third World countries, allowing them to get out of poverty and feed their children. Once your pulses are harvested and dried, they keep for up to a year with no refrigeration, providing food security that you don’t get from more perishable foods.
So if you have forgotten about putting your leguminous faves on that shopping list, now is the time to remember. Hummus has been booming in this country, but don’t stop there. The chickpeas you love in dips are also fantastic in curries, soups, stews, and salads. Lentils are good in soups, and also loaves, burgers, and pate. Split peas make a thick creamy soup, or you can puree them for a spread.
Don’t forget about bean flours, either, Chick pea flour is easy to find, thanks to the gluten free movement, and it makes a fantastic flatbread. Bob’s Red Mill has made it much easier to find green pea flour, white bean flour, and even black bean flour, and all of them are packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. You can use them to thicken sauces, bind loaves, and of course, bake without wheat.
Beans are such a heart-healthy, high protein food, they could well be the answer to American over-eating. The same miraculous plant that could cheaply feed the most impoverished people could also cut medical costs and mortality for people who have way too much to eat.
Now that is a plant that deserves a whole year to be the belle of the ball.
Just a few delicious pulse recipes: