The value of organic legumes production

Legumes are the basis of Mediterranean cuisine and, in general, are a essential for human nutrition. Their cultivation also plays an important agronomic role in organic production methods.

Historically, the culinary tradition of the peoples in Mediterranean area is based on a few key ingredients,  commonly found in cereals(especially wheat), vines, olives and of course legumes or leguminous. Chickpeas, lentils, green peas and beans are present as main ingredients in countless dishes and their consumption is closely associated with a healthy and quality food.

This close relation of legumes and traditional home cooking fits in a natural way with the benefits of organic production. It allows us to preserve the flavors, textures and smells of an ancient cuisine and, among other , helps appreciate  the local products.

Nutritional Value
Legumes are one of the most important vegetable sources of protein, a key quality for human nutrition because for many years the availability of animal protein was limited and expensive, making it difficult to include in the diet of the majority of the population. Even today this situation persists in many parts of the world where legumes remain one of the basic pillars of food.

One of most important sources of vegetable protein
The protein content of legumes consists mainly of globulin and albumin, which is a key protein intake of other crops such as cereals, prolamins and glutelin-rich supplement. In addition, consumption of legumes gives us other important nutritional elements like fiber, iron, calcium and B vitamins. Its other notable characteristics are the low share og fat and low glycemic index, which may help control levels blood sugar in case of diabetes.

Additionally, different sources attribute to a potential anti-cancer vegetables, capacity to regulate blood cholesterol level, as well as to serve as prevention of and protection against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or osteoporosis.

Agronomic value
The surface of legumes with the organic  label in Spain is divided between the various uses of this plant family. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, in 2012 the Spanish organic sector had a recorded area under pulses of 45,194 hectares, located mainly in Castilla-La Mancha (53%) and Andalusia (17%) to which we must add 2,188 hectares of green legumes, legumes beans and peas, mainly located in Andalusia, 90%. In addition, some legumes are also found in many meadows and pastures for feeding of organic livestock.

It might seem that legumes cannot compete with other agriculturally important crops such as green olive tree in the same year occupied an area of ​​168,039 hectares, or cereals have had 174,005 registered. However, for their agronomic and botanical characteristics, legumes play a crucial role in the valuable and complex balance of organic production.

Important role in soil regeneration
The use of legumes is a smart way to reduce the need for fertilizer on farms, but there is another factor to take into account when assessing what give us the Fabaceae plant family: its importance for organic livestock.

Organic farmers must meet a number of strict requirements ranging from care for animal welfare and animal health, as well as food safety. To ensure product quality, certified organic livestock must be fed with pasture or feed produced under organic certification. As in the case of human food, animal nutrition requires a significant contribution of quality protein, and legumes encompass some steps to fulfill that function varieties either by using it as fodder as in the case alfalfa, or as part of pasture and grassland devoted to livestock use.

As we have seen, organic legumes are a piece which makes a crucial contribution to smooth functioning of the ecosystem of organic systems and is also part of our history, as well as a beloved part of culinary tradition.


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