Legumes for a diet fit for the climate

Peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas and lupins are important sources of vegetable protein. Botanically, they belong to the legume family; since their seeds ripen in pods, the umbrella term legumes is also used for these plants. They have many uses - as food and as animal feed.

Pulses do not require nitrogen fertilization; they are self-fertilizing: They can bind nitrogen from the air in their roots via so-called nodule bacteria. This ability and their deep root system improve soil fertility, which in turn benefits other crops grown after them.

Many legumes are coping well with the changes brought about by climate change. For example, as average temperatures rise, lentil cultivation is also increasing in our latitudes. They grow best on poor, dry soils where other crops no longer thrive. Meanwhile, it is warm enough here for peanuts and chickpeas. They also do well with little water and can survive extended periods of drought without problems. Common bean and fire or beetle bean are very sensitive to cold and frost; milder temperatures benefit them.

Cultivation in Austria

The harvest yield of grain legumes and oilseeds in 2022 was 473,400 tons, according to data from Statistics Austria. Soybeans, whose cultivation area and yields have risen steadily in recent years, account for the bulk of this. The cultivated area reached a new record level of 93 700 ha in 2022. In 2022, 245 600 tons of soybeans were harvested.

In Austria, sweet lupins were cultivated on 407 ha in 2021, 57% more than in 2020, with the majority being grown in Lower Austria and Upper Austria. With 3,580 ha of lentils, chickpeas and vetches, 631 ha (+21.4%) more were cultivated than in the previous year, which was primarily due to the increased cultivation of lentils.

Ministry of Agriculture: Information on cultivated areas of selected legumes

Pulses - versatile powerhouses in the daily diet

Pulses are all-rounders, not only in agriculture but also in the kitchen. There they are an indispensable daily component in the diet. They are a particularly good source of vegetable protein - not only in vegan or vegetarian cuisine.

Especially in the vegan diet, it is important to combine legumes with other high-quality plant foods, such as cereals, nuts or even flaxseeds, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds, so that the protein can actually be optimally utilized by the body. Good combinations would include beans and rice, as in chili sin carne, pea stew and bread, or legumes and whole grains, such as pasta with lentil bolognese.

Due to their high fiber content, legumes are true fillers. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and magnesium.

They are versatile - from lentil salads to bean cakes. With the exception of peanut and pea, legumes must be cooked before consumption, as this inactivates substances that are harmful to humans, between 10 and 120 minutes depending on the variety and size.

Soaking dried legumes in cold water in the refrigerator for several hours and adding salt to the cooking water will shorten the cooking time. Canned pulses are already pre-cooked and can be eaten right away. For better tolerance, do not use the soaking water or liquid from canned foods.

Adding baking soda to the cooking water improves digestibility. Generous seasoning with herbs such as thyme, dill or savory, as well as spices such as fennel or caraway, also makes legumes easier to digest. Peas, lupine and shelled legumes such as red and yellow lentils are easier to digest.

Legumes can be used in a variety of ways, are increasingly sourced from regional cultivation and are therefore an important component of a climate-friendly modern diet.

Legumes - digital cookbook: we are looking for favorite recipes with legumes

Legumes should end up on our plates much more often. With the right recipes, this is of course much easier, so we would like to create a digital cookbook with the favorite recipes of Austrians with pulses.

We are still looking for recipes! Tell us your favorite recipe and inspire others with it. With a little luck, your recipe will be published in our digital cookbook! We are especially looking forward to receiving creative recipes with a photo.

This project is supported by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management.

Here you can upload your recipe directly: to the form.

Our research on legumes and climate change adaptation.

To promote the cultivation of legumes in Austria, we conduct research on various issues: For example, we have been working on the development of more drought- and heat-tolerant beetle bean varieties to ensure future crop yields even under changing climate conditions. Nanoviruses can ruin the entire harvest of legumes. One of our research projects has therefore looked at the spread of nanoviruses in legumes in order to develop future strategies against the virus.

Legume of the month

Last updated: 10.10.2023

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