Pulses: nourishing soils and people
After a short break, we gather again around another Food for Thought article.
It is February so in a few days we celebrate World Pulses Days. I always like remembering this day and taking the opportunity to spotlight this amazing food group.
So – let’s talk about pulses!
This year’s theme – set by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – is “Pulses: nourishing soils and people”.
It seems there is an international day for everything these days. Oftentimes, it might even feel like these celebratory days have lost their importance. But celebrating pulses is not as inappropriate as it might sound.
For example, did you know that pulses:
- Are small “powerhouses”, dense in both macro and micronutrients, being vital for our good health?
- Can provide interesting ecosystem services? When planted in multi-crop systems, they enhance climate resilience and biodiversity.
- Can capture atmospheric nitrogen and transform it into bioavailable forms, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, and improving soil health and fertility?
- Have a long shelf-life and help diversify our diets, helping to improve our health while avoiding food waste?
- Provide employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural women and youth?
With our diets as a leading cause of death and comorbidity worldwide, it becomes relevant to salute such an interesting crop. This celebration comes with a unique opportunity to raise public awareness about pulses and the fundamental role they play in the transformation of a decaying food system. Pulse production is a great asset towards “more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind” (FAO).
Hopefully, this information is working up an appetite. I am a big fan of pulses, so I have shared multiple recipes where they are featured (I will link some articles below). This said, there are infinite ways to cook and eat pulses.
Today’s recipe is a Mexican-inspired dish, one that may come in many different shapes and sizes.
Let’s make some tacos!
- Why should we eat pulses more often?
- A plant-based Feijoada (Food for Thought, February 2023)
- World Pulses Day | 10 February
Take a look at these informative infographics:
- Nutritional benefits of pulses
- Pulses contribute to food security
- Pulses and biodiversity
- Health benefits of pulses
- Pulses for a sustainable future
- Pulses and climate change
This recipe is inspired by an ancient sowing technique known as the Three Sisters.
The Three Sisters are companion crops used by various indigenous peoples in Central and North America. They are squash, corn, and climbing beans. Companion plants provide each other with beneficial services like structure, pest control, and weed suppression, among others, often reducing the need for artificial inputs, like fertilizers and pesticides.
If you’re interested, I can dive deeper into this method in an upcoming article. Let me know in the comment section below.
Makes ten to twelve tacos
- 1 medium-sized onion, minced
- ½ a red bell pepper + ½ a green one, chopped finely
- 2 tbsp of tomato paste
- ¼ tsp of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and sweet paprika
- 1 cup of white long-grain rice + 1 ½ cups of water
- 2 cups of black beans + 1 cup of water (if you home-cooked the beans, use that water)
- ¼ cup of sweet corn
- Butternut squash (2-3 slices), pre-steamed and cut into little pieces
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- Coriander to taste
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Coriander | Finely chopped cherry tomatoes | Lime juice | Roasted cashews | Hot sauce
Preheat two medium-sized pans on high heat. One of the pans is for the rice, and the other is for the black bean stew.
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to each pan; then, divide the onion between the two pans. Saute until slightly golden.
To the bean pan, add the bell peppers and stir. Cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes.
To the rice pot, add the spices and combine continuously for 30 seconds. Add 1 tbsp of tomato paste and stir again. Add the rice and combine well. Boil the water and add it to the pan. Add salt and let the rice cook on a low heat with the lid on, until all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and let it set, covered, for the rice to finish cooking.
Meanwhile, once the bell peppers of the bean pot start to golden up, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste and combine. If needed, deglaze de pan with a bit of water.
Now add black beans and water. Let this come to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and let it bubble away for 10 minutes on a medium-low heat.
Add the cooked pumpkin and the sweet corn, and combine. Cook for 5 minutes.
Stir the rice with a fork to make it fluffy. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and combine well.
Meanwhile, prepare the toppings. Once the black bean stew is thick and creamy, it is time to assemble the tacos.