World Pulses Day is celebrated on February 10, 2023. These crops are a powerful ally to fill protein needs. Their cultivation has a minimal environmental impact, and indeed represents a natural fertilizer for the soil.
The worm of protein deficiency
Il kwashiorkor it is the sad and difficult to pronounce disease from which children with swollen bellies are affected, which we remember in the photographic evidence of African famines. This is a serious form of protein deficiency, still widespread in countries where food security is far from assured.
Except in rare cases, the populations of the wealthy areas of the planet no longer have memory of this severe form of malnutrition. Protein deficiency, even in contexts where the average diet has various margins of questionability (such as the prevalence of junk food), in fact does not exist above a certain level of GDP. And not even (actually, much less) for those who avoid animal foods.
Protein and plant-based diet
Otherwise from what a widespread narration affirms, which identifies a plant-based diet as a risk factor for protein deficiency, those who eat healthy and varied food are not in danger in this sense. Whole grains, legumes, oilseeds, and even fruit and vegetables, mushrooms and seaweed are sources of protein that we can enjoy on a daily basis.
The side benefits there is no shortage: fresh, organic and wholemeal plant foods are cholesterol-free, rich in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants and keep us safe from obesity.
Inside the variegated plant world, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, broad beans, cicerchie, soybeans, roveja, mung beans, peanuts, lupins) stand out for their high protein content - obviously referring to the amount of food we can eat from time to time time. In fact, it is unlikely that you will get your entire daily requirement from oilseeds.
Legumes and cereals in the culinary tradition
There are numerous regional dishes in which they are combined with cereals, giving life to tasty, satiating and nutritionally very satisfying preparations. Among others, zastoch (pumpkin, potatoes and beans), risi e bisi (rice and peas), ribollita (wheat bread and beans, in the cover image), ciceri e tria (wheat and barley pasta with chickpeas), Matera crapiata (wheat and mixed legumes).
Dry pasta made from legume flourmoreover, it is increasingly easy to find on the market and allows us to save time in the preparation of further and innovative highly protein dishes.
It is not necessary resort to expensive super-technological solutions, ethically questionable or extraneous to traditional recipes to fill up on proteins. Peasant soups continue to be useful to us.
The more abundant the soup, the more efficient the food production
As for the environmental impact, obtaining the average amount of protein necessary for a healthy adult human being (about 60 grams per day) has very different "costs" depending on the source.
The graphs inserted below clearly show how legumes (and products obtained from them, such as tofu) allow you to eat with minimal impact on the environment. Relative to greenhouse gas emissions.
Also the cost in terms of agricultural land necessary to get the same amount of protein it really is very low for beans & company.
We find the same data about the water cost of proteins.
Finally, the cost in terms of eutrophic waste (water streams too rich in fertilizers, which initiate processes of destruction of aquatic ecosystems) always stays low.
Indulge in legumes often and willingly, therefore, allows to fully satisfy the protein needs at the lowest possible environmental cost. Choosing such "efficient" foods should be part of the priorities of a conscientious kitchen, in which personal health is not separated from that of a planet - the only one available to us - inhabited by more than eight billion people, each of whom has the right to feed properly.
Friends of the earth and the territory
Cultivation of legumes also brings environmental benefits of another kind. The fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, as a consequence, allows the soils to "recover" from the impoverishment caused by the prolonged harvests of grasses. In summary, a natural fertilization is obtained, which allows more abundant successive harvests and is able to prevent the abuse of chemical fertilizers.
Dried legumesmoreover, they constitute in themselves a category of anti-waste foods, given that they do not rot and can remain in the pantry for a long time.
considering that a significant portion of food waste is attributable to the problematic nature of post-harvest conservation and maintenance of the cold chain, legumes once again appear to be salvific.
World legume day 2023 it falls in the international year of the millet, organized by FAO to promote the cultivation and consumption of a drought-resistant cereal, rich in precious nutrients, suitable for cultivation on marginal lands. All characteristics in common with legumes, of which the "alternative" cereals (with wheat, rice and corn) are, therefore, natural allies.
Returning to our territory, Italy is lucky enough to take advantage of numerous local varieties to be rediscovered. Among the numerous – and delicious – examples, we find the dwarf pea of Zollino, the black chickpea of the Karst Murgia, the aforementioned roveja of Civita di Cascia, the lentil of Castelluccio, the Tuscan zolfino bean.
The rediscovery of legumes
Starting from the 60 yearsland intended for the cultivation of legumes has drastically decreased – in conjunction with the drop in consumption – but the last few years have witnessed an interesting trend reversal, albeit insufficient to cover domestic needs.
These results they probably would not have been achieved without the precious cultural work of associations such as Slow Food, whose rediscovery of regional varieties and traditional agricultural practices can provide new food insights to different types of public, even far from environmental concerns.
It therefore seems necessary go in search of local organic products, which allow you to support virtuous agricultural realities, stop the depopulation of inland areas and, in the long run, allow a "return to the poor origins" of regional cuisine. This time, in an ecological, healthy and ethical key.
Salentina transplanted to Milan, works in the field of immigration. She is passionate about ethical food and the sustainability of human activities, she is a viscerally feminist, inhabitant of a limited planet. But, above all, of the Mediterranean.