By: Hannah Dressen
Did you know that not every legume is a pulse, but every pulse is a legume? This is exactly what North Central Regional RCA members learned about at our spring regional get together at the alluring Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis, MN. The night was full of networking, a lentil-inspired dinner, presentations, and of course, some damn good beer!
Surly Brewing was just about the coolest location for this event. The tall and industrious brewery silos greet you as you first pull in, glowing with eerie red lights. As you enter the destination modern brewery, the downstairs area houses the busy restaurant and gift shop, while we overlooked into the brewery with our private bar and event room upstairs. Surly Brewing was named the Best Brewery in America by the Beer Advocate magazine in 2007, and RateBeer dubbed its artfully crafted Darkness brew the Best American Beer in the World. There’s even a law, called the “Surly Bill” that Minnesota governor Mark Dayton signed in 2011 that allows for breweries that produce less than 250,000 barrels each year to sell pints of beer at their brewery. Quite some amazing accomplishments for a brewery that was only a simple thought in 2004!
Incase you haven’t already heard, 2016 has officially been declared the International Year of Pulses. So what exactly constitutes as a pulse? Under the legume umbrella, pulses are different from soybeans, peanuts, and fresh beans and peas. Pulses include everything from dry beans, chickpeas, and lentils, to pigeon peas, vetch, Bambara beans, and pulse nes. (talk about some exotic beans) Julianne Curran, PhD. of the Canadian Lentil Brand, presented on some of the benefits of pulses such as their high protein and fiber and low fat content. Dietary pulses can also help decrease cholesterol and blood pressure while increasing satiety and promoting good digestive health.
Pulses are interesting to us as Culinologists because of their versatility in the R&D world. Contact any of the companies that partner with the US Dry Pea and Lentil Council and you can obtain whole seed, dehulled split, ground, flaked, fractioned, and pureed pulse ingredients. Need to increase the protein and fiber content in your wheat noodles? Reformulation can be easy with the addition of pea protein or other pulse flours. Applications can help moisture retention in meats, crispiness and thickness in crackers and biscuits, chewiness and shelf life of snack bars, and emulsification and viscosity in soups and beverages. The functional qualities of natural legumes can open up many doors as the food industry continues to turn to pulses for their R&D solutions.
While the versatility of pulse flours, flakes, and pureed ingredients can be exciting in our development, Lisa Garretson of the University of Minnesota Master’s Program reminded us about another trending reason why beans are being sought out by consumers: heirloom qualities. “Tomatoes had their time, but now it’s beans that are being actively sought out by consumers in grocery stores.” Beans are like the epitome of heirloom creativity, and can be marketed for such traits. This is great and all, except for the detrimental heat process of cooking. “Cooking causes heirlooms to lose their visual appeal entirely.” What was once a visual selling point becomes moot after the beans have been thoroughly cooked. Lisa showed us from her data that the beautiful specks, spots, and colors of some beans turn to complete brown, red and green. Every bean lost most, if not all of their visual heirloom qualities. However, heirloom beans such as Tiger’s Eye, Koronis Purple, and Jacob’s Cattle require a shorter preparation time (soaking time reaching 50% maximum hydration), which may make them more compelling to commercial food service operations. This is an important factor to keep in mind when developing new products with heirloom beans.
What kind of regional networking events have you been to? How are you getting involved with your RCA Region? If you haven’t already, exercise your RCA member benefits and become active in your region by taking part in networking and educational events. Find out what region you’re in and how you can get more involved here.
Special thanks goes out to NCRCA Committee Chairs, Charlie Lucas and Colby Darling; Erica Darling, Event Development; and Catherine Proper, RCA President, who have put countless hours of hard work into our regional events, and a big thank you to our event sponsors: Givaudan, McCormick, World Food Processing, Canadian Lentils, ADM Processing, General Mills, and SUPERVALU.