Legumes - part 3

MUNG BEAN

The name of this variety of legume may hint that it is used in Chinese or Asian cooking, but, in reality, people in India have cultivated the mung bean for several centuries and, till date, India remains a major cultivator of this variety of legume.

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However, this variety of legume is cultivated in the United States too and is known as 'chickasaw pea' in this western nation. Occasionally, it is also referred to as green gram, chop suey bean (this is because the sprouts of mung bean form a vital constituent of chop suey) and golden gram.

While the seeds of the most common mung beans are usually green, they may also be found having brown, yellow or spotted black hue. The seeds of mung bean are very small, measuring just approximately 1/8 inch across.

From the nutritional viewpoint, the seeds of mung bean are a wonderful supply of folate (folic acid) and they are also rich in thiamin, magnesium and phosphorus content.

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LENTIL

Perhaps, the lentil was among the earliest legumes to be cultivated by man. Currently, this variety of legume is grown in several regions across the globe and is known by different names in different regions. In Arabic, lentil is called ads, in Turkey it is known as merimek, in Japan it is called heramame, in Ethiopia lentil is referred to as messer and people in India call it masoor, dal or gram. In fact, India is currently the largest producer of lentil worldwide.

The plant that bears lentil is actually a bush that grows up to a height of about two feet. The seed pods of lentil are small, even and oblong-shaped. The lentil seeds may be found in different colors, including green, yellow, red, brown or orange. The lentil seeds are categorized as macrospermae (large) or microspermae (small) and each category has several dozen varieties.

Similar to several other varieties of legumes, lentils too are a wonderful source of folic acid and also contain high levels of iron, phosphorus and potassium.

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LIMA BEANS

Initially, lima beans were grown in South America and, later, the European explorers carried this legume to Europe, Africa and Asia. In the southern region of the United States, people refer to lima beans as butter beans, while the spotted purple varieties of this legume are known as speckled butter beans or calico. In addition, lima beans are also called Madagascar beans.

The lima bean seed pods are even and oblong-shaped growing up to a length of two inches to four inches. Each seed pod typically encloses about 2 to 4 smooth-surfaced seeds having the shape of human kidney. Lima beans are found in many varieties and their seeds differ in color as well as size. The seeds that are marketed commonly have a light green hue, but seeds having red, purple, black, spotted and brown colors are also sold in the market. Two varieties of lima beans that are sold most extensively are known as Fordhook and baby lima bean - a variety that is comparatively small as well as mild.

All varieties of the lima beans supply us with rich amounts of phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.

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PEANUTS

Their name notwithstanding, peanuts are simply just nuts. Basically, peanuts are seeds of a variety of legume. Generally, people think that peanuts are nuts owing to the manner in which they use them and also because they are enclosed by a shell similar to that of the nuts. Nevertheless, the so-called 'shells' of peanuts are, in fact, a legume's fibrous seed pods that enclose roughly between one and three seeds that are covered by a paper-thin, edible seed coat. It is very easy to break open these seed pods that may grow up to a length of one inch to two inches. The contours of these seed pods are similar to those of the rounded seeds they enclose.

Plants that bear peanuts are classified into two types - runner or bunch. The runner variety of peanut plants produce seeds spread out the length of their branches, while the bunch variety produces seed pods that are near the base of the plants. In fact, the runner variety was introduced as recently as the 1970s and since then has turned out to be more acceptable compared to the bunch variety. This is possibly owing to the fact that the runner type peanuts are mainly used to manufacture peanut butter. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of the entire peanut production worldwide is used to make peanut butter.

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The variety known as Spanish peanuts actually belongs to the bunch type and produces little, rounded seeds that are wrapped by a skin having a reddish-brown hue. Spanish peanuts are generally salted, roasted and vacuum-packed. On the other hand, the variety called Virginia peanuts may be both runner as well as bunch. The seeds of Virginia peanuts are normally bigger in size and further oval-shaped and marketed after being roasted in their shells.

Unlike most legumes, peanuts enclose some amount of fats, but the fat present in peanuts is mainly monounsaturated fat. Peanuts provide us with sufficient amounts of folic acid, niacin, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and copper, in addition to being a wonderful resource of iron.

A botanist of African-American origin who worked during the later part of the 19th century, George Washington Carver is renowned as the 'Father of the Peanut Industry' owing to his original work for developing over 300 new utilities for peanuts, counting using them in the form of a constituent of soap, medicine, shoe polish, paint, ink, bleach and also ice cream. Peanut butter, which is a popular food today, was created by an American physician way back in 1890. His objective in inventing peanut butter was to make a food available for his aged patients that can be digested easily and is nourishing. Nevertheless, much before this invention, people in several cultures used peanuts to prepare edible pastes that were akin to peanut butter.

PEAS

Similar to peanuts, one may not instantly recognize peas to be a legume, as they are always sold as well as eaten in the form of a vegetable. However, the looks may mislead, as, similar to other varieties of legumes, peas too form a wonderful resource of protein. One serving (roughly 3/4 cup) of peas encloses an equal amount of protein contained by one tablespoonful of peanut butter, but much less fat.

The pea plant is annually growing and reaches up to a height of anything between one foot and five feet. A breezy and comparatively moist climate is necessary for this plant to grow and thrive. There are numerous different varieties of peas, perhaps over 1,000 dissimilar types. The dissimilar pea plants bear different types of peas - wrinkle-seeded peas, smooth-seeded peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas.

Normally, the smooth-seeded pea variety is marketed in a frozen condition, while the wrinkled-seeded pea type is canned as they are comparatively sweeter. On the other hand, field peas are mostly cultivated for drying up. Sugar snap peas and snow peas are cultivated mainly because of their seed pods that are snappish and sweet flavoured.

All varieties of peas are an excellent resource of iron.

SOYBEANS

In case you are only ingesting soy by means of sprinkling soy sauce on chow mein, you ought to know that you are missing an opportunity to obtain the benefits offered by a food that is not only multipurpose, but also very flavourful. In fact, soy still remains a very reasonably priced food that can help to incorporate protein into your diet. In addition, it may possibly also help in lessening fat when it is used as a substitute for meat in the more conventional cuisines.

All soy products are made from soybeans, which is a legume having its origin in the northern region of China. Currently, the United States is one of the largest producers of soybeans worldwide. Similar to peas, soybeans are also found in numerous varieties - more than 1,000 different types. These soybeans differ in their size and may be as small as a pea or of the dimension of a cherry and are available in a host of hues, including green, yellow, red, black and brown. The protein present in soybeans is said to be a 'complete' protein - the most absolute that one can obtain from vegetable resources. From the nutritional viewpoint, it is equally good as proteins obtained from animal sources. Believe it or not, compared to three ounces of prepared meat, one cup of soybeans contains more protein. Besides, soybeans are also a wonderful resource of various nutriments, counting vitamin B6, phosphorus and iron, in addition to providing us ample amounts of calcium and potassium. Soybeans also contain high levels of the phytochemical known as isoflavone.

Normally, soybeans are processed to prepare other food products, for instance, soy oil which is utilized to manufacture ink for printing newspapers. In addition, products prepared from soybeans are incorporated into various foods while processing. However, there are numerous foods that are more or less completely made from soybeans.

It is interesting to note that incidences of cardiovascular ailments as well as a number of cancer forms are comparatively less in cultures whose diet comprises soybeans as the primary protein source. Currently, scientists are engaged in researching whether or not soy has any function in putting off the development of osteoporosis and also alleviating hot flashes that are related to menopause. According to the findings of a number of studies, some relation may exist between soybean consumption and these health conditions.

While it is perhaps very premature to make any precise health claim related to the use of soybeans or soy products, there are ample substantiation that incorporating soy into one's diet is very sensible from the nutritional point of view. Besides nutriments, consuming soy products will also help you to simply discover an entire new variety of healthy foods that you may take delight in.

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