Legumes are the seeds that grow in pods on plants, bushes or vines. There are over 13,000 varieties of legumes.
Depending on the type of legume, they can be eaten fresh, sprouted, dried, dried and ground, or liquified and transformed into other products such as tofu or bean milk.
Legumes and grains complement each other in two ways:
- On the table. The protein in each is incomplete but together they form a complete protein;
- In the field. Legumes enrich the ground with nutrients that the grains use. This is why even the Romans would rotate these crops, and why natives in Central America grew beans and corn right together, training the bean vines right onto the corn stalks.
Legumes are on average more nutritious than grains, with almost twice the protein, and more iron and B vitamins.
The flatulence problem has been known for ever. Saint Augustine and Saint Jerome wrote about it (Saint Jerome forbade his nuns to eat beans on account of it).
Legumes were quite important in Rome, and not looked down on, as they are today. Four prominent Roman families derived their names from Legumes:
Cicero – Chickpea (an ancestor had a growth on his face that resembled a chickpea)
Lentulus — Lentil
Fabius — Faba bean
Piso — pea
Growing Legumes was very important for farmers in the days before commercial fertilizers, because Legumes would put nitrogen into the soil.
Legume word comes from the Latin verb legere, meaning “to gather”.
The bean family of Legumes is called Phaseolus; the Lentil family is called Lens; the peanut family is called Arachis.