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Pulse Crops / Valuing Underutilized crops

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Greetings everyone,

I wanted to start a thread extending the question of what are underutilized or forgotten crops that you have knowledge about?

These are plant species that have been used for centuries or even millennia as food, fibre, fodder, oil or medicine, but are no longer very common. Many of these crops are of great value for nutrition, climate resilience and risk diversification. The globalisation of food systems, however, has led to a situation where currently a mere fifteen crops provide 90% of the world’s food, with three crops - rice, maize and wheat - making up twothirds of this total (FAO).

As 2016 has been announced as the International Year of Pulses:

What are your favorite pulse crops and what makes them important for growers, families, or for the local market?

What are some of your forgotten recipies with forgotten crops or pulses (fermentations? stews? brews?)

Also if you may be interested in submitting an article for Farming Matters magazine email me at before the first of April to find out more!


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I vote for giant ragweed. It was used as a human food at one time and is an important crop for wild birds.
I chop and mulch with it and feed seeds to chickens.
If you chop before pollen you have alot of biomass.
I am not allergic to this so I let a stand go to seed for chickens.
I lay out a tarp and bend stalks over tarp and chop.
I beat the stalks on the tarp to make the seeds fall.
The stalks then go into the chicken pen for the birds to clean off and make a nice flooring in the run that would otherwise be muddy.
The seeds are feed to the birds.
I also find that penned chickens will eat at the leaves of cut green stalks.
Posts: 4675
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Jesse Roberts wrote:What are your favorite pulse crops and what makes them important for growers, families, or for the local market?

My favorite pulse crop is shelling peas... I sit in the garden for hours every year. Shelling them and eating them on the spot. I can't walk past a pea patch without eating a few... Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. I allow a lot of different kinds of peas to go to seed, and eat them as dry peas added to soups, or sprouted peas added to salads or stir-fries. Shelling peas are the highest priced pulse at my local market. I suppose that's due to the fabulous taste, and to the high labor cost of picking them. Also, this area used to support a canning factory, and peas were one of the major crops. Therefore I expect that there is a community meme of loving good shelling peas.

Shelling Peas:

I also eat garbanzo beans fresh from the garden. They have fewer peas per pod, so not as enticing. I normally let them go to dry seeds. They are not popular here. Yields tend to be low.

Garbanzo Beans:

My other cold weather beans are fava beans. I typically eat them as dry beans cooked into a soup. They are the hardest for me to grow... But would do well here in a year without a summer. They really don't do well in hot summer weather, which is typical here, so growing them is problematic, and the community therefore doesn't know much about cooking them.

Fava Beans:

My hot weather beans are common beans, teparies, cowpeas, and runner beans. I eat all of them as bean soup, refried beans, or as cooked sprouts either in soups, salads, casseroles, or stir-fries. Additionally, I eat the runner beans as shellies, cooked fresh from the almost mature still-wet pods. I don't eat any of these raw, because I am put-off by the taste of their poisons. I don't typically eat them as green beans, because the nutrient profile is so low. Tepary pods are particularly poisonous tasting! Runner bean pods are coarse. Cowpea pods must be an acquired taste that people around here haven't bothered to acquire. If you want to see a disgusted look on a communitie's face, come to my farmer's market and give away samples of cooked cowpea pods!!!

Common beans:

Tepary Beans:

Runner Beans:


This year, I am also growing experimental crops of lima bean, soybeans, and lentils. I figure that my garden is more reliable if I grow a number of different type of pulses. I called runner beans a hot-weather bean, but they tend to thrive better in summers that are a bit cooler and wetter than typical for this area. I think of them as a hedge against the El Nino weather pattern.

And some of them are really pretty!

Runner Bean flowers:

Crimson-flowered fava:

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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Joseph - great pictures! You inspiring me to try other pulse crops.

For years I've been growing a number of different dry soup peas. I also produce a number of shelling varieties that I dry and store for use in stews, peas & gravy dishes.

I have lots of varieties of dry beans for soups, stews, chili, refrying, beans n rice type dishes. Bean dips are popular in my house. Different variety beans lend themselves to different type dishes with some making great pot broth, others for absorbing flavors, some that hold their shape, some that mush into a stew. They can have quite different cooking characteristics.

I also have been growing limas for using as a dry bean. I have several varieties growing now. We like them for soups.

This year I'm adding pigeon peas, cowpeas, runner beans, and tepary beans. All new to me, so things shall be interesting in the garden. I'm just now harvesting my first variety of cowpeas, a black and white one called Holstein. I have a few experimental plants of Fava beans. I don't know yet if they will grow for me here. The seeds have sprouted, so the experiment is on it's way.
Joseph Lofthouse
Posts: 4675
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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This growing season, I planted two landraces of cowpeas. One from Minnesota, and one from Texas. Many of the plants haven't flowered yet, but three varieties have already produced dry seed.

[Thumbnail for cowpeas-2016-earliest.jpg]
Earliest cowpeas of 2016
Just the other day, I was thinking ... about this tiny ad:
September-October Homestead Skills Jamboree 2019
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