The farmers of Saskatchewan want you to eat more lentils, beans, dried peas and chickpeas. Why? Because they want to grow more lentils, beans, dried peas and chickpeas. In the past 25 years, Saskatchewan has become one of the world’s largest producers of these foods, second only to India.
The problem is, the market is saturated. World consumption has actually dropped from nine kilograms per person in the 1960s to about six kilograms per person today. Just think, our farmers went from zero to 25% of the world market in 25 years, even as that market was shrinking. That says a lot about the hard work and superior product coming out of Saskatchewan. So what’s up for the next 25 years?
That was the topic last week at the annual Pulse Days in Saskatoon. (Pulse is the name given to this class of edible seeds of the legume family.) The goal is to double production of pulse crops in Saskatchewan from about five million acres per year to 10 million acres or more. Once that mark is reached, one-quarter of all crops in the fields will be pulses.
But if pulse farmers are going to increase production, they need to convince more people to eat their lentils, beans, dried peas and chickpeas. To aid their effort, I’ve compiled a list of reasons why we should do just that:
1) Pulses are good for you. They’re chock full of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron. They have a low glycemic index, which makes them good for people with diabetes.
2) Pulses are good for the environment. Pulses take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. Nitrogen is a natural fertilizer which all plants need to grow. Most farmers use an artificial fertilizer created from natural gas. With concern over greenhouse gas emissions, growing more pulses is a natural way to cut the carbon footprint of farming and the food we eat.
3) It’s easy to sneak pulses into the diet. Pulses can be ground to a flour and used in baking and other processed foods, so you get the health benefits without a single “bean” in sight. With consumer demand for healthier foods, processing companies such as General Mills are looking at the possibility of including more pulses such as pea fibre. It’s easy to include pulses in home baking, too.
4) Pulses are diet food. Low in fat and calories, high in nutrients and good carbs. Pulses make you feel fuller so you eat less.
5) Few people are allergic to pulses. People who cannot eat wheat flour do not suffer the same ill effects when eating pulse flour. Also, toasted chickpeas are a nice alternative to nuts. For instance, the University of Saskatchewan has created a fabulous chocolate full of crunchy bits of chickpea. You’d never know!
Try the chickpea-chocolate combination in this recipe from Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. You'll find more desserts with pulses here and here.
Chocolate Chickpea Cookies
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup soft butter or margarine
2 large egg whites
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Beat the sugar and butter until smooth. Mix in the egg whites, vanilla, chickpeas and chocolate chips. Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt, mixing on low speed to form a thick dough.
Line two baking sheet with parchment. Drop dough by the tablespoonful, spacing cookies 1 inch apart. Flatten slightly with fork. Bake at 350F for 11-13 minutes.