There’s a global movement afoot to celebrate and promote humble beans and other legumes. On January 18, 2017, Global Pulse Day will be celebrated, marking a worldwide event that aims to build on the momentum of 2016’s International Year of Pulses. A brainchild of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the movement aims to inspire a fresh look at an ancient food crop. With a low carbon footprint, pulses can be a fine solution to producing good-quality protein while preserving an increasingly fragile environment.
Consider: Pulses use only five gallons of water to produce each gram of protein, while beef requires 29.6 gallons of water for each gram. And they don’t cause the kind of soil depletion and tremendous amount of waste inherent in animal agriculture. Sustainability and pulse agriculture are, so to speak, like peas in a pod!
Why pulses, and why now? In the words of the Global Pulse Confederation, these crops are “the food of the future. They are the future of better nutrition… the future of improved health… and the future of sustainable food.” The global campaign got off to an auspicious start—the first Pulse Feast in January of 2016 reached 21 million people with 141 events in over 36 countries.
“Even if you don’t know the term pulses, you’ve eaten them, and that to me is their power,” explains Ellen Kanner (who is affiliated with the American Pulse Association and the coordinator of last year’s Pulse Innovation Miami). “The most amazing thing is, before they nourish us, pulses nourish the planet. They heal the world, quite literally. You can’t grow crops without fertile soil, and beans are one of the few crops that actually improve it.”
In the kitchen, pulses—beans, lentils and peas—have enjoyed a long and illustrious history as a blessedly uncontroversial, if underappreciated, food group with plentiful benefits. They’re an inexpensive protein source, high in fiber and filled with valuable vitamins and minerals.
If you stop to think about it, pulses have been a beloved part of numerous (if not most) global cuisines. Pulses have played a starring role in the Middle Eastern cuisines that Jews and Arabs have shared: mujaddarah, hummus, fava bean foul and falafel, to name a few favorites.
The delicious dishes of Mexico and the American Southwest wouldn’t be what they are without bean burritos, tostadas and tacos; an Indian meal gets heft from a number of chickpea dishes and lentil dal; Korean cooks love their red beans, Caribbean cultures their black beans. And what would Asian cooking be without tofu and tempeh, both of which are made of soybeans?
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of beans, but without them, the global kitchen would be far less creative and soulful.
Learn more about the upcoming Global Pulse Day, January 18. And if you participate, share your love for beans and legumes on social media. Tag your event, video, recipes and photos by using #GlobalPulseDay and #LovePulses in your posts. Create any kind of event that celebrates pulses—a community potluck, a cooking demo or even just a quiet dinner at home.