A couple of years ago, members of the Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations were brainstorming ways to help millions of hungry people get more decent food, and they hit on an idea that doesn’t sound useful to your average American: they decided to designate 2016 the Year of Pulses.
Does that mean we’re supposed to, like, keep a heartbeat diary this year?
No. It means we’re supposed to grow legumes. Legumes are a plant family that takes nitrogen out of the air and makes it available in the soil. Pulses are the seeds inside the pods that grow on legumes — lentils, chick peas, and many different kinds of beans: black, white, red, cranberry, kidney, Great Northern, pinto, fava, cannellini, lima, etc.
The thinking is that if we shift our attention from growing corn to feed the cows and chickens we eat to growing legumes and feeding their seeds to people directly, there might be enough to go around. And since pulses practically eliminate diseases of affluence, we’d all feel so much better in our bodies that all manner of unforeseeable goodness might ensue.
To do our part, we’re planting a number of legumes this year — and we’re eating their seeds. As we explore new ways to use pulses, we’ll let you know which ones we like best.
On Saturday we tried a cranberry and chickpea salad from the cookbook PlantPure Nation. It was supposed to feed six people, but Janet and I ate the whole thing in one sitting.
Make the dressing first so the ingredients can bond while you prep the main components: 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons agave nectar, 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes maybe. Whisk all that together.
Then: 2 cans of chickpeas rinsed (smash a lot of those with a fork or a potato masher), 1 big carrot diced, 1/2 cup or more diced celery, 1/2 cup or more dried cranberries, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup diced red onion, 1/4 cup or more chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
You can serve it at room temperature or chill it for a couple of hours. It’s called a salad, but I don’t see any reason not to treat it as a main dish.