The Power of Pulses

Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas & Lentils

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
April 19, 2016

Book cover of The Power of PulsesIt’s the International Year of Pulses, and a new book, The Power of Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas & Lentils, is here to guide the way. If saving the world sounds like hyperbole, it’s because pulses may be one of nature’s most perfect foods. Nutrient-dense and packed with protein and fiber, these superfoods are seeds and edible foods at the same time. They are also important for sustainable agriculture. Peas, beans and lentils are easy to grow, require little water, and improve the fertility of the soil wherever they take root.

The Power of Pulses
brings together organic seed grower Dan Jason, and culinary sisters, Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne, to provide everything you need to know about planting, harvesting and cooking peas, beans, chickpeas, favas and lentils. Accompanying this practical advice is Jason’s wisdom on why pulses are important for sustainable agriculture, and how they can help renew the health of the planet.

What is a pulse? A pulse is a legume grown for its dried seed. The most common pulses are dried peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Pulses have been grown for over 10,000 years. A traditional food of cultures worldwide, they require 20 to 40 times less fossil fuels to produce than meat. They also thrive without the need for nitrogen fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Peas, beans and lentils fix nitrogen from the air in nodules on their roots, increasing the fertility of the soil by simply growing in it. As Jason puts it, “They are the epitome of renewable energy.”

How to Grow Pulses

White borlotti beans in their pink shells.

Borlotti beans. (Photo reprinted with permission from Douglas & McIntyre.)

The book looks at five of the most common pulses which grow well in North America: dried peas, beans, chickpeas (commonly called garbanzos), fava beans and lentils. Dan Jason grows over 60 varieties at Salt Spring Seeds, where they stand out for ease of cultivation. “For 30 years, I’ve watched pulses improve the fertility of my soils by simply growing,” he says. “I have grown my pulse crops with only the rare watering, mulching early on, and then just standing back to watch them grow and produce food.”

In general, pulses grow well in areas with mild winters and summers that are not too hot. The book offers advice on how to grow pulses, including planting, watering, and drying them on the vine. Jason also discusses ways to ensure a healthy harvest with crop diversity, beneficial insects and mulching. Most important for small growers who lack heavy equipment, Jason shares his easy technique for threshing, using a homemade threshing box.

In addition, the book provides handy charts on such topics as spacing your plants or pulse harvest yields. Stunning photos show the beauty of many varieties of unique heirloom peas and beans.

Recipes for Pulses

The last half of the book is devoted to recipes—most of them developed by Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne, co-owners of Sea Salt Food Company. With health experts citing the ability of pulses to lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease and promote gut health, there are a multitude of reasons to eat pulses. Pulses are rich in fiber, gluten-free, and high in protein and B vitamins.

The Malone sisters present an unexpectedly varied array of recipes for cooking beans, peas and other pulses. It’s not just soups and bean pots, although there are tempting one-pot recipes such as Power Pulse Chili and Yellow Split Pea Dahl.

These inventive recipes also present ways you may never have imagined to cook with pulses: Crispy Chickpeas (for snacks or to use as croutons), Lentil and Mushroom Pâté, Miso and Charred Scallion Hummus, and even desserts like Black Bean Brownies with Espresso Ganache.

There’s a reason chefs and farmers alike are hailing peas, beans and lentils as powerful superfoods. Easy to grow, packed with nutrition, and versatile for cooking everything from soups to desserts, pulses are, in Dan Jason’s estimation, “the perfect food for this planet and all its people.”

So, go forth. Grow more beans and improve your garden. Enjoy great healthy meals. Delight your friends with inventive culinary ingredients. And all the while, help renew the environment and save the planet.

The Power of Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas & Lentils
by Dan Jason, Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne
Published by Douglas & McIntyre, 2016
Photos reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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