Did you know that legumes are actually one of the biggest families of plants? This is because the definition includes not only the plants themselves but also the seeds that they produce.
There is a whopping 19,500 different species of legumes and there are also lots of different varieties within these species.
They come in many different colors, tastes, and textures and so if you are incorporating legumes into your diet, you can be safe in the knowledge that you have plenty of choices.
In terms of diets though, legume typically refers to pulses that are basically the seeds of the legume plants that we consume.
In layman’s terms, we’re talking beans, peas, chickpeas, and the like. But we’ll get into that all a bit more later.
These legumes are actually pretty popular and regardless of where you find yourself in the world, you can almost guarantee that they will be used within your typical cuisine somehow.
From pinto beans that are a staple of a Mexican chili to hummus made from chickpeas that originated in the middle-east, legumes play an important role in most cuisine-culture globally.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the list of legumes, the edible items that fall into this category, and how they can be incorporated into meals.
Keep in mind that while I will try to reference as many different options that fall under these five categories throughout the article, the amount of options is extensive.
It would simply be impossible to list every legume that exists, but I will state all the most popular and common options.
The main categories for legumes are as follows:
Beans make up the largest of the categories. There are many varieties of beans on offer across the world. In fact, there are said to be over 40,000 varieties of beans, though not all of them have the privilege of being massed produced and brought to the dinner table.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular varieties that you’ll know and recognize.
- Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans) – These beans are particularly popular in Italy. They are similar to the red kidney bean in shape and size but obviously differ in color. They have a slightly earthy flavor. To cook soak overnight and then simmer for 60-90 minutes.
- Kidney Beans (Chili Beans) – No chili is complete without kidney beans. They are dark red in color and have a tick skin that retains its shape after cooking. To cook soak overnight and then simmer for 60-90 minutes.
- Lima Beans (Butter Beans) – Popular across South America these beans have a buttery flavor and starchy texture. To cook soak overnight and then simmer for 90 minutes.
There are over 50 different varieties of lentils that are produced for food consumption. They can be sold both with and without a seed coat, split, or whole.
- Beluga Lentils (Black Lentils) – Typically grown in Canada or America’s northern plains these lentils prove to be the best in terms of flavor and nutritional value. To cook simmer for around 30 minutes until tender.
- Brown Lentils – These are the most common lentils that you’ll find in Northern America. They have a mild flavor and a firm texture. To cook simmer for around 40 minutes until tender.
- Red Lentils – Popular across Asia and the Mediterranean, these orange-colored lentils have a fairly nutty flavor. These only need to simmer for around 15 minutes to become tender.
Peas come in lots of different sizes, colors, and much like lentils can also be purchased whole or split.
- Green Peas (Green Matar) – Green in color, mild and slightly sweet in flavor, these peas are one of the very first crops that were ever cultivated. Due to their thick skin, they’ll take around 90 minutes to cook on a simmer.
- Pigeon Peas (Congo Peas) – These peas are quite common amongst regions of India. They have a strong nutty flavor and a crisp and firm texture. They will take around an hour to cook on a simmer.
- Green Split Peas (Green Matar Dal) – Soft and creamy in texture once cooked, and mild and somewhat sweet in flavor, these peas take just 30 minutes to cook on a simmer.
Unlike the rest of our list there are only two types of chickpeas available. This is because they are very vulnerable to weather conditions particularly the cold or a lack of moisture.
- Chickpeas – Wildly popular in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and East Indian cuisines the chickpea has a mild and somewhat nutty flavor and a firm and slightly crunchy texture. For tender chickpeas simmer for 60-80 minutes.
- Desi Chickpeas – These tend to be darker and thicker than regular chickpeas and have a more earthy aroma and a stronger nutty flavor. Simmer for 90 minutes.
Soybeans are often used to make soy products. A few examples of familiar soy products are:
- Soymilk – plant-based drink produced by soaking and grinding soybeans and then filtering out any remaining particles.
- Tofu – Prepared by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds into blocks.
- Edamame – Immature soybeans in the pod that are often used in East Asian cuisine.
These examples all but scratch the surface of the number of legumes that are available on the market for consumption. And then honestly, the mind boggles at the number of legumes that exist that aren’t mass-produced for human consumption.
All of these legumes are incredibly nutritious and can be easily incorporated into many different dishe that originate from all around the world. From Japanese soy-based miso soup to tofu pad Thai from Thailand there are plenty of options to choose from.
So what are you waiting for? Get incorporating legumes into your daily diet today and try different meals from all across the globe.