Sustainability – In Praise of Local Pulses

Broad beans in my polytunnel. These can be dried and used as a pulse as well as being eaten when green.

This might not sound like the most interesting of topics. But pulses are a hot topic when it comes to sustainability and sustainable food. Your everyday food choices really can make a big difference. Whether or not you choose to go down the vegan or vegetarian route, eating more local pulses is a good way to go.

Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. They grow in pods and come in a wide range of shapes sizes and colours. While all pulses are legumes, not all legumes are pulses. The term ‘pulses’ is used only to apply to crops that are harvested for their dry grains. Crops harvested while they are still green are not classified as pulses – so that excludes green beans and green peas harvested before full maturity. 

Check out my article: What Are Pulses and Why Should We Grow and Eat Them?

To summarize, growing and eating pulses:

  • Helps us reduce meat consumption, through providing a great source of plant-based protein. (Reducing meat consumption is one top way to cut our carbon footprints.)
  • Helps us create water-wise growing systems and save water. Pulses use a lot less water to grow than meat.
  • Can help us garden organically. As nitrogen fixers, legumes grown for pulses can also help us avoid synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.
  • And growing these plants can also help fertilise your garden, maintain fertility and improve soil over time.
  • Pulses are also great for our health.

If you already include pulses in your diet, it is quite likely (certainly here in the UK) that you are eating imported pulses from abroad. But eating imported pulses obviously carries a carbon cost, since they need to travel so far from A to B.

Navy beans, chickpeas and lentils are all popular pulses here. But most come from abroad. Hodmedod‘s British grown grains and pulses are one notable exception. Choosing these more local options are a far more sustainable choice. But if you can, why not try growing your own?

For tips on choosing pulses to grow, check out this article:

Growing Pulses in Your Polytunnel

You might not be able to be self-sufficient in pulses. But everything you can do to grow your own pulses is a step in the right direction.

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