What a odd word, legumes. Pronounced “Leg-oooms” It’s a shame a word that describes such a wonderful genre of food is so foreign and unknown to most of us. But despite any weird words, you all know and love legumes, you just may not have not known you were eating them.
So now that you know how to say it, what exactly is a legume? Weeeell, a legume is pretty much anything that grows in a pod. Beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts make up most of the categories of lentils. That’s right, told you you have been eating them all along. Green beans, snap peas, soy beans, black beans, pinto beans, green peas, and peanuts have been legumes this whole time, and you didn’t even know it. This feels like a Matrix moment. But instead of taking the blue or red pill, why not try more legumes? They certainly taste a lot better, and are better for you. Legumes are really high in protein, and in fact are one of the best ways to go meat-free and still get most of the dietary protein you will need.
Now I don’t want to get to “science-y” on you, but bear with me for a minute, this could help you a lot in the future. Not only are legumes a great source of protein, which our bodies need to grow hair, nails, skin, blood cells, etc., but they also are chock full of other healthy components like folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, huge amounts of fiber, and complex carbohydrates. These are all very important nutrients to keep in balance in your body to maintain optimal health. Legumes have a proven track record of defending the body against cholesterol, diabetes, and even cancer. They also help in maintaining healthy weight because they have the effect of keeping you less hungry for a longer time period. Thank those complex carbohydrates! See, not all carbs are bad. So really, beans are the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more your life expectancy and overall health and happiness increase.
In my experience, I like to categorize legumes into two different categories: Dried and Fresh.
Dried legumes are usually found in the form of beans, lentils, split peas, and chickpeas/garbanzo beans. The reason I love this form of legume is because of one very important reason. Price! They are dirt cheap and can be bought in bulk. In this dried form, will keep, oh I don’t know…a century or so. I haven’t lived long enough to fully test this out!
Now, I have to take a minute to address the accusation that beans make…well, some not so pleasant smells. It is true that beans do have certain proteins called lectins that our bodies don’t digest. These lectins pass through our body and are set upon by bacteria in our tummies…yes, I said tummies…who then eat the proteins and produce a gas that is released by our bodies in a…windy fashion. There is a way, however to lessen this effect. By soaking beans overnight, some of these proteins are leeched out into the surrounding water, never to bother us again. So don’t let this nonsense reputation stop you from eating as many legumes as you can. Any way, the point is, beans and other dried legumes are an underrated way to keep you and your family fed, even on an extremely low budget. So buy as much as you can store, and you will always have something good to eat
Fresh Legumes are something different altogether. Fresh legumes are most commonly found in your supermarket as green beans, edamame, snap peas, English peas, sugar peas, and fava beans. They don’t have the shelf life dried legumes have, but they more than make up for it in flavor and texture. If cooked properly, fresh lentils have a sweet taste and a pleasant snappy texture.
Speaking of fresh legumes…I get asked this all the time…What is the best way to cook green Beans? Seriously it’s funny how random this is, but for some reason, this is my most requested piece of information. Soooo, I want to officially clear this up! There is a RIGHT way to cook green beans. And this is the technique I use 90% of the time.
HOW TO COOK GREEN BEANS:
- Set a pot of water to boil on the stovetop.
- While that is heating up, snap the stems off each of the beans, and discard any rotten ones that may be hiding in the bunch.
- Fill a bowl up with ice and cover with fresh water.
- Once the water is boiling, add in the green beans and cook for 2 minutes exactly! No more, no less.
- Now drain them in the sink and immediately plunge into ice water. This is called blanching. The purpose is to cook through to the perfect texture. The ice water stops the cooking process. The whole point in doing this is because cooking the green beans from raw would result in in uneven cooking…most likely over cooking…and no one likes army green, soggy green beans.
The whole point in doing this is because cooking the green beans from raw would result in in uneven cooking…most likely over cooking…and no one likes army green, soggy green beans. By blanching the green beans, you have much more control over the way they cook and will have a much better result in your recipes! This technique isn’t so much a recipe as it is a step in preparing green beans. From here you can sauté them, use them in a salad, make a casserole, and much more!
Legumes are an amazing food that just doesn’t get the spotlight enough. Hopefully I have peaked your interest in giving them a closer look. Whether dried or fresh, legumes are great for your health, are delicious, and they can be used in hundreds of recipes. Add in the fact that they are affordable and available everywhere, and you have yourself a true superfood! So leave a comment below and tell me what you think!