Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 International Year of Pulses (Legumes)

Dear Folks,

The United Nations has designated 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.  You can read up a bit about the focus here.

Are you a lover of beans? Or, not so much?

I grew up with a general disdain for beans, mostly because of the canned varieties used by everyone from my mom (and mom was a good cook) to those who brought the ubiquitous baked beans to picnics etc.

When I met my dear Deane, who has never met a bean he did not love, I needed to TRY and find beans and other legumes I could love and lovingly prepare for him.  My top favorites are Edamame (I LOVE the nutty not-beany taste of them), Lentils (fast cooking) and Garbonzos (mild and picks up the flavors of what they are cooked with) as hummus or part of stews.  Oh and I do like peanuts and peanut butter :-)

I am going to do a series of posts on legumes.  You probably already have read more than you need to on why they are so good for you and why you should eat more of them, but I will just list the high points:

--CHEAP protein!
--No cholesterol
--High Fiber
--Plays well with other foods (even assuming the flavor identity of what they are cooked or prepared with)
--Naturally low in sodium and sugars

Let me start you off with several things.

1)  I found a great site that lists many legumes in order of protein to calorie ratio.  This site did a lot of the research work for me on nutrient content.  Under each legume you can click on a more expanded chart of all the nutrition pulled from the Nutrient Data Base on the USDA - a site I use a lot to get as accurate a list of nutrition data on a food.

Nutritionist Daisy Whitbread runs this site and she lists soybeans as number 3 on the best protein to calorie ratio.  Specifically this one is for Mature Soybeans.

So I went and pulled comparable data from the NDB on Edamame (green, immature) and the ratios are about the same

Edamame, shelled and boiled:

100 Grams (equal to 3.5 ounces weighed - about 5 ounces in a cup measure)
Calories:  121
Protein Grams 11.91 g
Fiber Grams 5.2 g
Protein Gram to Calorie 1 Gram of Protein per 10.15 Calories

Soybeans, Mature, and boiled (from
100 Grams
Calories:  173
Protein Grams:   16.6 g
Fiber Grams:   6 g
Protein Gram to Calorie = 1 Gram of Protein per a 10.4 Calories

The ratios are the same.  With the mature soybeans you can go for more protein per portion, you also get more calories which can be a good thing if you need the energy.  If you are looking to control calories, go with the Edamame.

2)  While I'm discussing soybeans - a little history is in order.

Soy and soy products like Tofu, Tempeh (both on the chart) and Soy Sauce* have long been used in Asian cooking.

Before the growing interest in tofu and soy products when vegetarians and vegans wanted better protein sources starting back in the 60s and 70s and rapidly expanding in the last couple of decades, soybeans were grown primarily in the US for cattle feed.

Soybeans as food for people and as a soil nitrogen regenerative, became better known with the Great Depression. "Prior to the 1920 in the USA, the soybean was mainly a forage crop, a source of oil, meal (for feed) and industrial products, with very little used as food." -- wikipedia

In the past I have had some "ugh" reactions from folks who obviously grew up with canned soybeans when I've talked about the wonderful aspects of Edamame.  Poor-folk food and cattle feed were their memories.

As many of you know, the GMO chemical companies have so taken over the soybean growing something like 93% of soy grown here in the US is GMO.

BUY ORGANIC!  Whether for eating or sowing make sure the beans you purchase are organic.

*Soy Sauce (Tamari) actually has protein, but since it is only used sparingly in cooking the ratio amount is low.  See the chart here.

Growing Soybeans In the Desert Garden

This is a fun crop to grow here in the desert.  You can begin planting Soybeans in late March and successive plant every 2-4 weeks through the end of May and into early June.  The successive planting works very well, because the beans ripen at the same time on each plant (for edamame), so you can harvest well into the middle of summer.  Always leave some to dry completely on the plant for 1) re-sowing next year, and 2) to have some dried for storage and cooking later.

Saving beans for re-sowing ensures you have NON-GMO beans AND you are regionally adapting your beans to your garden with each subsequent sowing and saving.

As with all legumes you get a two'fer when growing them and letting some of them dry completely.  Food and nitrogen fixing into your soil.  The nitrogen recharge of the soil is when the plant completes its life cycle and the nodules on the roots stay in the soil.

Plant in a sunny, well-draining spot.  Harvest for Edamame when the pods are plump, green and yield a little to pressure, about 50-65 days after sowing.  Let them go to full dried brown if you want them dried.


When purchasing Edamame, go for the shelled as it is usually a better price break, unless you want the fun "popping" appetizer of the pods simmered in seasoned water or broth.

I have use the Edamame beans in everything from salads to hummus type dips.  I've added them to my Stuffed Pumpkin recipe to boost the nutrient density for a Vegan Main Dish, to my Bean Chili, to Pasta Primavera, and all sorts of stews.


--Any good size squash can be used in place of a pumpkin.
--Pasta dishes with vegetables (like the Primavera) are a breeze to make.  Just add the vegetables to the pasta while boiling.  Calculate the amount of time for the vegetables to cook and add at the point in the cooking of the pasta.  Example:  The edamame needs 5 minutes, shredded zucchini or similar needs 1-2 minutes etc.  The pasta cooks for 9 minutes, so add the edamame after the pasta has cooked for 4 minutes, add the zucchini 3 minutes later.  Drain all together, and add seasonings and sauces.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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