What are Legumes?

A legume is a plant species that has seed pods that split along both sides when ripe. There are nearly 250 varieties of legumes, including beans like soy, pinto, white, kidney, lima, red, black, navy, pink, peas like black-eyed, green, and split, as well as lentils and peanuts.These can be bottled, dry-pack canned or stored in #10 cans or plastic containers. They will keep indefinitely when stored in a cool, dry place.

Beans are tasty, cholesterol reducing and nutritionally excellent. They are high in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber and the richest source of vegetable protein. They provide all the necessary amino acids to make complete proteins when combined with grains, rice, corn or milk products. When served this way they can replace meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy in your diet. They are high in B vitamins, complex carbohydrates, iron, calcium, phosphorous and potassium. They help stabilize blood sugar.

Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for their grain seed called pulse, for livestock forage and silage, and as soil-enhancing green manure. The 68th year of the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 “The International Year of Pulses.” Watch for emphasis on legumes during this year. Plan on adding some to your food storage.

Tips on Cooking Legumes

  • Before cooking beans and other legumes, wash them thoroughly under cool water, then sort through them to remove any stones or other debris and any beans that float to the top of the water.
  • All dry beans need to be soaked before cooking, preferably overnight. You don’t need to soak lentils or mung beans unles you plan on sprouting them. Split peas can be washed and cooked directly.
  • Soaking shortens the cooking time and makes them more digestible. Soak with 4 times the volume of water.
  • Do not add salt yet. After soaking, drain and rinse them and add fresh water for cooking. This will reduce flatulence.
  • Add twice as much water as bean volume. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, skim off any foam that collects at the top, then cover, lower heat and simmer for one hour.
  • Stir in salt (1/2 tsp per cup of dry beans) and continue cooking until beans are tender.
  • Check frequently adding more water as needed.
  • To check doneness, cut one in half, If the color is consistent, they are done, if it’s lighter in the middle, cook longer.

Legumes aren’t just used for soups but can be …

  • Ground into bean flour for white sauces
  • Mash up cooked beans to replace butter/oil in recipes
  • Grown into sprouts for a fresh “vegetable”

Bean Don’ts

  • No storing of dry beans in the refrigerator
  • Do not add baking soda to hasten soaking or cooking time as it will decrease the nutritional content
  • Do not add salt, calcium, magnesium or acid to the soaking water or beans will not soften
  • Do not use microwave to cook dry beans – microwaving is fine for reheating beans that are already cooked, but dry beans need to be simmered slowly in lot of water to soften, tenderize and rehydrate properly.

Additional Legumes

Alfalfa is a member of the pea family and is typically eaten by humans as sprouts.

Lentils are small, flat legumes that come in a wide variety of colors that can be flavored many different ways, like sweet salads, savory soups or casseroles. They can be used as a meat filler.

Split Peas are regular peas that have been dried after harvesting. When skin are removed, they split naturally.

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Billie Nicholson, editor
August 2016

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