Legumes (Pulses) are one of the most ancient foods in history and among the most precious. Excellent source of protein, they have a high content of dietary fibers, useful for regulating intestinal functions, glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood. In the plant world there is no other food that has such a high energy value. Also rich in potassium, calcium and iron, legumes also contain B vitamins.
In the Mediterranean Italian Diet, legumes occupy a prominent role together with the cereals to which they are often combined. Associating legumes with cereals (rice, barley, buckwheat, Farro-Spelt but also pasta made with durum wheat or ancient grains) allows you to take all the benefits contained in these foods. The science of nutrition teaches that legumes have a high protein content while they are deficient in sulphurates, contained in cereals.
In Italy, legumes were the dish of the poor. Today, they are also part of the diet of those who consume meat but, above all, those who choose a vegetarian diet. A dish made of legumes and cereals guarantees a complete nutritional contribution. Moreover, legumes have a lower environmental impact than the high costs, in terms of water and energy, of breeding. For example, 15 500 liters of water are required to produce one kilogram of beef. A kilo of vegetables, on the other hand, requires between 200 and 400 liters of water, depending on the variety.
How to eat them:
Before cooking, the dried legumes (pulses) must be soaked for 10-12 hours. This is necessary not only for faster cooking but above all because soaking allows the elimination of phytic acid, an anti-nutritional substance that limits the absorption of mineral salts. The salt must be added at the end of cooking to avoid hardening of the peel and reduce cooking time.
Types of legumes:
Originally from the Middle and Far East, chickpea has a high content of proteins, carbohydrates and fibers. It grows mainly in areas with hot and dry climate. Sowing takes place in spring, harvesting in the summer. On the market, chickpeas are available in a box, cooked or pre-cooked, dried or as flour. The drying of the chickpea can vary from a few months to a year, without causing considerable organoleptic variations.
Beans can have different shape, color and flavor depending on the species. The seeds can be consumed fresh, if the harvest takes place during the summer, or dried. Among the most common varieties: the Mexican bean, small, black and round; the large, white and crushed Spanish bean; the “borlotto” with bright red stripes; the light colored “cannellino”; the cowpea, with its characteristic black spot, similar to a pupil. Beans are a food with recognized energy properties, also recommended to reduce cholesterol as they contain lecithin.
On the market, fava beans are available fresh and dry: fresh ones can be eaten raw or cooked; the dry ones, like all the other legumes, require a soaking of a few hours before cooking.
Lentils are among the most loved and widespread legumes for their low cost and high nutritional value. There are varieties with large seeds and varieties with smaller seeds, orange, red or brown. On the market, they are available packaged, loose, or pre-cooked. They are the only legume that can’t be soaked but it is preferable to extend the cooking and salt the water towards the end.
Even the peas are a very old legume. Their shape, like color, change from one variety to another. Their properties are beneficial for the intestine and the cardiovascular system. Is better to eat them fresh, when in season, although they are also very sold frozen or in cans.