Foreword to The Power of Pulses
I have been growing and talking about the value of pulses—dried peas and
beans, chickpeas, favas and lentils—for 30 years, and remain more convinced
than ever that they could help renew the health of our planet.
Pulses are tried and true—people in temperate climates have been
growing and eating them for more than ten thousand years. Nutritional
powerhouses, pulses are still the most essential part of the diets of billions
of people worldwide.
Belonging to the amazing and prolific legume plant family (Leguminosae
or Fabaceae), pulses can snatch nitrogen out of the air and add it to the
earth. Because of this powerful ability to increase the fertility of soil by
simply growing in it, they are the epitome of renewable energy.
Easy to grow and prepare, dried peas and beans, chickpeas, favas and
lentils can be cooked in a seemingly infinite variety of simple and delicious
ways and offer much culinary delight because of their diverse tastes and
textures. Cultures around the world have created special dishes for all of
the pulses, and this book contains 50 inspired recipes that borrow from the
best of them.
The surprising news is that even though most North Americans don’t
know beans about beans, our farmers grow vast acreages of pulses to export
to millions of people who do appreciate them. And while Canada is the
world’s largest exporter of pulses, Canadians consume less than 10 percent
of what their farmers grow. It is time for Canadians and Americans to realize
that pulses—flexible enough to be prepared in hundreds of memorable
ways for breakfast, lunch or dinner—could and should comprise a much
larger portion of our daily diet. And in addition to buying pulses from our
local farmers, we can grow them ourselves easily . . . and organically.
Of all the thousands of years seeds have been handed from farmer to
farmer, it’s only in the past 50 or so that poisons have been used to grow
food. We are at a crucial moment in our story when it is absolutely vital that
we return to feeding everyone with clean food and water instead of continuing
to play havoc with the health and well-being of ourselves and all the
earth’s creatures. Pulses can be easily grown without herbicides and pesticides
if we size down the North American model of industrial agriculture.
To this day, millions of small farmers grow beans without chemicals. And
I have been growing beans myself successfully for 30 years without ever
resorting to poisons. Pulses are also light on water, increasingly important
on this planet where drought is becoming more and more a daily concern.
Being the nutrient-dense and easy-to-grow foods that they are, pulses
can point us in the direction of a safe and sustainable agriculture that gives
everyone access to clean food and water, along with the possibility of living
in health, harmony and mutual benefit.
Renewable energy is everywhere, every day for the celebrating. Pulse
plants can show the way by enabling humans to be renewed by our daily
food. Like the pulses within our bodies, they are slow and deep and at the
heart of things.
Pulses require between 20 to 40 times less fossil fuel to produce than
meat, yet they provide incredible nourishment. And meanwhile, these same
pulses regenerate our earth, nourishing the soil that nourishes our food.
I hope this book shows how much power there can be in a handful
of beans, and how much delight there is to be had in growing and cooking