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Green Mom

October 2016

Pulses to the Rescue

By: Larraine Roulston

Beans. Peas. Favas. Chickpeas. Lentils. Good for your health. Great for the environment. Amazinglypulses delicious to eat! These unassuming members of the pulse family are impressively resilient and will stand up to the effects of climate change. In order to educate people about their rich value, the United Nations declared 2016 to be the “International Year of Pulses!’’ Also, in its effort to encourage shoppers to include these little-known seeds on their grocery lists, it released an online book Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future. The book details their varieties, methods for growing and cooking them, and their solution to widespread hunger, disappearing biodiversity and food security.

According to, “one pound of pulses requires only 43 gallons of water to produce, compared to 1,857 gallons of water for one pound of beef.’’ This, together with many more advantages, points to beans becoming a good bet for the future.

The family of pulses can withstand the effects of our changing climate. As these crops are a hardier variety than many others, they will be able to tolerate future droughts and floods. With their ability to repair nitrogen levels, they contribute to the biodiversity within the soil. Depending on the type of crops planted, the UN’s book states that “pulses can add anywhere from 30 to 300 kg of nitrogen into the soil per hectare.‘’ This means that the soil’s carbon sequestration is improved as the plants absorb and draw into the soil part of the natural CO2 emissions. When free from pesticides and fertilizer, crops of pulses actually leave the soil healthier after they have been harvested. As for food security, dried beans are inexpensive and can remain on your pantry self for a lengthy time without losing nutrients.

Pulses are highly nutritious. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals as well as high in fiber, iron, folate, gluten and potassium; and are an excellent source of protein without eating meat. For extra flavor, add a little salt to the water when soaking the beans, and cook them in broth rather than plain water. Check out the recipes for making bean soup, bean salad, black bean tacos; pasta with beans; chickpea curry; bean chili; tomato, spinach and black bean pizza; and bean burgers.

By including pulses in your weekly diet, they will actually make you healthy which, as you know, is the best defense against illness. Thanks to their high fiber content, they can reduce the risk of heart disease, help with managing weight by stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as lower cholesterol.

Ontario’s longtime composting educator, Cathy Nesbitt, also became an advocate for pulses through sprouting. Cathy states, “Adding fresh sprouts to your life adds life to your life.” She encourages everyone to grow their own fresh sprouts at home, school or office for a continuous supply of simple, delicious, nutritious, affordable food. She adds, “Eat sprouts year-round for maximum health benefits; in summer add sprouts to salads, smoothies and sandwiches for a boost in flavor and an increase in nutrient value. During the winter, choose sprouts to enjoy fresh greens even when the ground is frozen.”

Perhaps this is the reason why we use the expression, “That little tyke must be full of beans!’’ when we encounter an energetic child.

Related Links:

When beans save dinner

4 ways to cook dried beans to perfection

Recipes – Pulse Canada

Pulse Canada Recipe Booklets

Recipes | Alberta Pulse Growers

16 Delicious Recipes Featuring Beans & Lentils – Cookie and Kate

24 recipes for the Year of the Pulse | Simple Bites

Larraine Roulston writes the Pee Wee at Castle Compost adventure series. Visit


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