What Are Pulses And Why Are They Important?

Pulses, legumes, beansThe Year Of The Pulses

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses. What are pulses and why are they so important? Pulses that we are most familiar with here in the U.S. are dry beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas to name a few. They are high in protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. This movement is an opportunity to raise global awareness in the role that pulses play in feeding the world and is an occasion to help communities learn about the nutritional value of pulses and the positive impact they can have on your health. Pulses are environmentally friendly and play an important role in our global food security.

Educating Children On Pulses

As an Extension Educator I found this an opportunity to introduce pulses to children through our summer programming in Scotts Bluff and Morrill Counties in Nebraska. Creating a culinary experience for children and allowing them to assist in food preparation makes children eager to give it a try and they often ask for seconds when they’ve helped prepare their own food!

In my effort to educate children about introducing healthy snack options, teach culinary skills, and introduce pulses, I searched for recipes that might appeal to children. My search lead me to Mango Black Bean Salsa and Roasted Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). In order to make them more kid friendly I altered the recipes by omitting the onions and using a light dusting of spices. Since I may be introducing some spices that may be new to children I only gave a light dusting of the seasoning or spices. In the month of June we introduced pulses to approximately 250 children K- 5th grade. The children gave our recipes a “thumbs up!”

Tips For Cooking with Children

  • Make certain you are aware of the food allergies that may be present in the children you are working with.
  • Many children often struggle with the textures of foods, especially with legumes, as their taste buds are changing and evolving. Always ask them to give it a try! They might not have liked it before, but because of their changing tastes, they may like it this time.
  • Always make the first serving a small “tasting serving” and remind them that they can always have more if they would like.
  • Ask children: How might you change these recipes? What other fruits would you add to the salsa instead of mangos? What other types of seasonings could you add to the chickpeas?
  • Have copies of the recipes so that the children can take home to share with parents.

Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 mango
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans
  • 1 can (7 oz.) Mexicorn
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin (Instead of using garlic salt or cumin try using 1-2 tsps. of taco seasoning)

Instructions

  1. Wash and peel the mango. Cut into cubes.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips. (You can also make your own tortilla chips by cutting corn tortillas into triangles and baking them in the oven!)

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas (15 oz.), rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt (Instead of cumin or garlic salt substitute with taco seasoning)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Spread chickpeas on a paper towel to remove excess liquid. It’s important to make certain the chickpeas are dry the more liquid they have in them the longer they take to cook.
  3. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cumin, garlic salt. Add chickpeas and toss to coat evenly.
  4. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet with a rim. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until chickpeas are crunchy. Occasionally shake the pan to ensure even browning.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Looking for more information on teaching children about pulses? Check out the Teachers National Year of the Pulses tool kit.

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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