This engaging and informative guide will teach you how to cultivate and eat pulses, and why this is beneficial for everyone, including the planet.
Dan Jason is a farmer from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. He recently published a book called “The Power of Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas & Lentils,” in which he makes a compelling argument for pulses being the food of the future and the answer to climate change-related concerns about food security.
‘Pulse’ refers to the dried edible seeds of legume plants, excluding green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetables, and clovers and alfalfa, which are used mainly as cover crops.
Despite the fact that the rest of the world understands and appreciates pulses of all kinds, North Americans are largely unaware of the tremendous benefits of this versatile and nutrition-packed food. "The Power of Pulses" gives some great reasons for why we should start paying closer attention.
Pulses are extremely healthy.
They are a low-fat source of protein, fiber, and many other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B, which is important for vegetarians and vegans. Research links pulse consumption to increased bone strength, boosted cognitive abilities, sharpened memory, and reduced oxidative stress and inflammation.
“Eating pulses may help to prevent several cancers, lower cholesterol, control blood glucose levels, optimize blood pressure, reduce heart and peripheral artery disease and promote gut health and liver function.”
Pulses are good for the earth.
As nitrogen fixers, they are a rare crop that leaves the soil healthier after harvest than it was before. This natural process replaces the need to add nitrogen fertilizers, which converts into nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Pulses can be grown organically very easily at home, free from the pesticides, herbicides, and pre-harvest desiccants that are applied to conventional crops.
They require relatively little water, which is crucial for the many regions facing water shortages and droughts. According to Pulses.org, one pound of pulses requires only 43 gallons of water to produce, compared to 1,857 gallons of water for one pound of beef.
Pulses are easily to cultivate.
You don’t need a lot of space to produce pulses. With just a few acres, it’s entirely reasonable to cultivate organic pulse crops for local or personal consumption. Jason believes that North Americans need to look to the rest of the world for examples of small-scale farms, where 95 percent of the world’s farms are still less than 12 acres (5 hectares). This is a viable model for better food security:
“Small-scale farmers produce 70 percent of the world’s food on just 25 percent of the world’s farmland. According to USC Canada, switching from conventional to sustainable methods can see a rise in crop yields of up to 79 percent.”
Where winters are mild, it is possible to cultivate pulses year-round. They are winter crops in the Mediterranean and could certainly be grown in parts of the United States.
Pulses provide food security.
Without seeds, there would be no food. Pulses are the food you eat, plus the seed for next year’s crop. There are no special procedures for saving seeds or overwintering pulses in the garden. As Jason points out, “Farmers and gardeners can be both bean growers and seed savers without additional infrastructure.”
Author Dan Jason is not alone in believing that pulses are a key part of the effort to improve food security for a growing human population. The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. People are encouraged to take the Pulse Pledge and learn more about how eating pulses can help the environment and contribute to sustainable food production.
“The Power of Pulses” contains detailed directions for growing beans, peas, chickpeas, favas, and lentils. It is laid out in a simple, clear fashion that makes even non-gardeners like me feel inspired to plant some rows of beans. The book also contains 50 vegetarian recipes for fresh and innovative ways to use pulses, created by sister-team Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne.