The term "pulse", is normally used for crops harvested solely for the dry edible seeds that grow in pods. Types of pulse include all beans, peas and lentils. Actual individual types are baked, runner, broad, kidney and butter beans plus black eyed, garden, and chick peas. Lentils come in different colours, you can eat red, yellow, green or brown lentils. Pulses are low fat, contain protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They can also count towards your ‘5 a Day’, the UK government initiative to ensure that people eat enough fruit and vegetables.
Why eat pulses?
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, or know someone who is then you’ll know all about pulses and their attributes. Not only are they full of iron, they are also high in protein. They can help the body to get enough iron and protein when no meat, fish or dairy produce are eaten.
Being a starchy food and high in fibre, pulses may contribute to lowering cholesterol in your body. This makes them good for your heart.
If you do buy your pulses in tins then always check the label to ensure that there is no added salt or sugar. Even if you are not a vegan or vegetarian, then pulses can be useful in your diet. When added to soups or stews they add flavour and can help to thicken, allowing you to cut back on the meat. This reduces the price of the dish and the fat content.
Pulses and 5 a Day
If you like pulses then the good news for you is that they count towards the government’s ‘5 a Day’ campaign. Three tablespoons of cooked pulses can count as one portion. However because you must have fruit and vegetables too then pulses cannot count as more than one portion unless they are green beans which can be included in the food groups vegetable or pulse.
Cooking and storing pulses
Dried pulses should be stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container until you are ready to eat them. Dried pulses must be soaked, usually for at least 12 hours before cooking. The cooking period must include some vigorous boiling, the amount of time depends on the type of pulse because some pulses have toxins present. Red kidney beans and soya beans are two types that must be boiled vigorously. The cooking time can depend on how old the pulses are too.
Cooking times vary depending on the type of pulse, so follow the instructions on the packet or recipe.
Kidney beans and soya beans both need similar preparation because they both contain a toxin if not cooked properly. In kidney beans the toxin is called lectin and this can cause vomiting and stomach cramps. Soya beans contain a trypsin inhibitor. This toxin stops your digestive system working properly meaning that food cannot be digested effectively. To remove the toxins requires similar actions. Soak the beans overnight (at least 12 hours) and then drain and rinse. Cover with clean water and cook. The kidney beans must be boiled vigorously for at least 10 minutes and then simmered for around an hour to soften them for eating. Soya beans must be boiled vigorously for one hour followed by 2 to 3 hours simmer. They will now be ready to eat.
With both types of beans if you buy them in tins they are ready to eat, hot or cold.
How to Store Cooked Pulses
Pulses keep in the freezer very well but like all foods if they stay frozen too long their texture and taste suffers. If you are in doubt about how long pulses can stay frozen then follow the freezer manufacturer’s guidelines. If you store your pulses in the fridge then it is best to consume them within two days. If pulses have been cooked recently then cool them as rapidly as you can, and put them into the fridge or freezer quickly. Leaving any food at room temperature for too long increases the chances of bacteria multiplying.