2016 is the year of the Pulse! Ok, so- what does that mean and how does it affect me?
Pulses are the dried edible seeds within a pod, such as dried peas, dried beans, lentils, and chickpeas. A pulse is the variety of the legume family. (Legumes are plants that have the “fruit” of the plant enclosed in a pod). Pulses are not fresh beans or peas, although they are from the legume family, pulses contain no fat, while soybeans or peanuts have higher fat contents.
2016 will be a year of dedicating education and raising awareness of beans, peas and lentils. For many years pulse crops have added nourishment and nutrition to the world, but have more recently gained popularity for being a versatile addition to a healthy diet. With this increased attention, the idea of a year to dedicate to recognizing the role that pulse crops play in sustainable agriculture and healthy eating became a reality.
Pulses can work towards influencing lifestyles to tackle diseases linked to obesity and diabetes. Pulses are a nutritious addition to a healthy diet and also play an important role in prevention of poor health caused by cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Pulses are key in providing vitamins and minerals, and protein. Pulses are helpful in lowering blood cholesterol and blood glucose which is key when fighting diabetes and heart disease. There are many versatile ways to cook and enjoy the varieties of lentils, beans, and peas. We can eat pulses as appetizers and snack foods as well as main dishes and desserts.
Pulses can help increase food security for those living in areas of shortage and offer much needed addition to food supply for developing areas with poor farming knowledge and diverse environmental conditions. New technologies used with planting and care of pulse crops allows farmers to have sustainable food and income for impoverished regions. Plants like the pigeonpea have made such advancements and are creating these opportunities for poor farmers.
The United States is the sixth leading producer of dried edible beans in the world. We produce too many to list, but the top varieties are pinto, navy, black, great northern and garbanzo. The states that lead in production are: North Dakota at 38%, Michigan at 14% and Nebraska at 11%. Iowa does grow, harvest and market pulses. Black beans take less water than soybeans do. They require extra attention, but the quality and flavor of this black bean is exceptional. Farmers like Jason Grimm are helping move Iowa agriculture down new paths of growing dried edible pulses.
Creating awareness and working towards a healthy, hunger-free and sustainable world is what the year of the Pulses is all about. Get out there and enjoy the 2016 and use those pulses to create mouthwatering meals!