What are legumes

What are legumes?

Legumes are the seeds of plants that have matured in a pod. It is an elongated carpel that is folded along the longitudinal axis. For some, only these seeds are consumed. In other legumes, the pod is eaten with the seeds.

The legume family is widely ramified and includes around 730 genera and around 20,000 species. The best known, however, are the different types of beans such as runner beans, French beans, broad beans, firebeans, kidney beans or white beans. Legumes also include peas, as well as chickpeas, lentils and soybeans. Peanuts are also legumes and not - as their name suggests - nuts.

Legumes contain a lot of protein, plenty of fiber and various nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and iron as well as secondary plant substances such as saponins, isoflavones and alkaloids. These phytochemicals are considered to be potentially cancer preventive and anti-inflammatory.

With the exception of peanuts, green peas and sugar snap peas, legumes should not be consumed raw; for example, many types of beans and chickpeas contain the indigestible poison phasin, which leads to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and clumps the red blood cells. However, the phasin is rendered harmless by cooking. Lima and Urd beans also contain hydrogen cyanide, which is only released from the legumes when they are soaked and cooked. You can then eat the beans, but you should dispose of the soaking and cooking water. In the form of seedlings, however, the pulses do not pose a health risk, even when raw.

Unfortunately, many of the B vitamins found in legumes are lost during cooking. It is therefore advisable to combine them with other fresh vegetables such as peppers, celery or carrots.

As seedlings, you can eat legumes, for example, as a topping on bread or in salads. Otherwise, legumes are good for stews and soups such as chili con carne, lentil or pea soup. But they can also be used as a side vegetable for meat or fish dishes. Soybeans are also often used as the basis for vegetarian or vegan spreads, puddings and desserts, milk substitutes and tofu.