By Cindy Yuong, AOS Baking & Pastry
January 22, 2016
Food trends are ever-evolving and this year, it seems the trend has landed upon pulses. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has named 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Pulses are part of the legume family as dried seeds, including varieties of edible beans, dried peas, chickpeas and lentils. The FAO’s focus this year is on spreading the use of pulses in food and farms with the slogan ‘Nutritious seeds for a sustainable future.’
Pulses are both highly nutritious and critical for sustainable agriculture, a significant contribution to food security. They are a valuable plant-based protein source high in fiber, low in fat, and with no cholesterol or gluten. Pulses provide many micronutrients, B vitamins, and several minerals. These dried legumes are an extremely versatile nutrition source. Pulse production is also extremely environmentally friendly. It requires significantly less water usage than other protein sources; it takes ten times as much water to produce a kilogram of beef than it does for certain dried legumes. The food wastage of pulses is much lower than other food sources and it does not spoil quickly nor need refrigeration in order to consume. In addition, pulse particles can be used as animal feed as well as compost. They provide fertility to the soil with their increased biodiversity and are ideal for crop rotation. With their broad diversity, pulses can spring up new varieties that are adapted to our changing climate. Pulses will play an important role in sustaining our earth and people now, and further into the future.
As it is now, pulses are a subsisting crop in developing countries where they are grown to be sold and consumed. Pulses are already an important nutrition source in the less developed nations with smaller farms and less of an opportunity to get other sources of protein. They do not have much choice in their diet without the technology and industry to produce other crops or cattle. If the developed world were to increase its production and consumption of pulses, the people would not only be healthier and better at sustaining the earth, but the benefit would trickle down to the impoverished.
Dried legumes are already important – they are included in food stamp and nutrition programs – but their relatively low cost for a high yield help lift families out of hunger. Developed countries consume fewer pulses than developing countries, but if they were able to bring pulses into the mainstream, they would be more widely available for everyone. In 2015, we saw the rise of vegetable-centered plates. Consumers are beginning to be aware of the health factors in eating meat and grains and opting for vegetables instead. This year, we need to bring that in further, pushing pulses to the center as a sustainable, nutritious protein source. The FAO is already calling for recipes that highlight numerous ways to use the pulses, and as a thriving center of chefs, we should be contributing to the cause. Not only can we create wonderful dishes with these dried legumes, we will be leading others in a cascading promotion of pulses to be a lasting food choice. As the IYP goes on and more support is raised, the crops being produced can be kept in continual usage. With people knowing what an excellent food source pulses are, nutrition programs will include them in food plans more, especially in helping the hungry. The costs are overwhelmingly less for pulses, in both production and trade, and we will be able to provide them to sustain the people.