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A legume fruit is a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces (opens along a seam) on two sides. A common name for this type of fruit is a pod. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soy, and peanuts.

Farmed legumes can belong to many agricultural classes, including forage, grain, blooms, pharmaceutical/industrial, fallow/green manure, and timber species.
  • Grain legumes are cultivated for their seeds, and are also called pulses. The seeds are used for human and animal consumption or for the production of oils for industrial uses. Grain legumes include beans, lentils, lupins, peas, and peanuts.
  • Legume species grown for their flowers include lupins, which are farmed commercially for their blooms as well as being popular in gardens worldwide.
  • Industrially farmed legumes include Indigofera and Acacia species, which are cultivated for dye and natural gum production, respectively.
  • Fallow/green manure legume species are cultivated to be tilled back into the soil in order to exploit the high levels of captured atmospheric nitrogen found in the roots of most legumes. Numerous legumes farmed for this purpose include Leucaena, Cyamopsis, and Sesbania species.
  • Various legume species are farmed for timber production worldwide, including numerous Acacia species and Castanospermum australe.
Legumes contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine. To compensate, some vegetarian cultures serve legumes along with grains, which are low in the essential amino acid lysine, which legumes contain. Thus a combination of legumes with grains can provide all necessary amino acids for vegetarians. Common examples of such combinations are dal with rice by Indians, and beans with corn tortillas, tofu with rice, and peanut butter with wheat bread.

 A pulse is an annual leguminous crop yielding from one to twelve seeds of variable size, shape, and color within a pod. Pulses are used for food and animal feed. The term "pulse", as used by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), is reserved for crops harvested solely for the dry seed. This excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded are crops that are mainly grown for oil extraction (oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts), and crops which are used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa). However, in common use these distinctions are not clearly made, and many of the varieties so classified and given below are also used as vegetables, with their beans in pods while young cooked in whole cuisines and sold for the purpose; for example black eyed beans, lima beans and Toor or pigeon peas are thus eaten as fresh green beans cooked as part of a meal. Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content. Like many leguminous crops, pulses play a key role in crop rotation due to their ability to fix nitrogen.

FAO recognizes 11 primary pulses.

1. Dry beans
  • Kidney bean, haricot bean, pinto bean, navy bean
  • Lima bean, butter bean
  • Azuki bean, adzuki bean
  • Mung bean, golden gram, green gram
  • Black gram, urad
  • Scarlet runner bean
  • Rice bean
  • Moth bean
  • Tepary bean
2. Dry broad beans
  • Horse bean
  • Broad bean
  • Field bean
3Dry peas
  • Garden pea
  • Protein pea
4. Chickpea, garbanzo, Bengal gram
5. Dry cowpea, black-eyed pea, blackeye bean
6. Pigeon pea, Arhar /Toor, cajan pea, Congo bean
7. Lentil
8. Bambara groundnut, earth pea
9. Vetch, common vetch
10. Lupins

11. Minor pulses, including:
  • Lablab, hyacinth bean
  • Jack bean, sword bean
  • Winged bean
  • Velvet bean, cowitch
  • Yam bean
Protein content:
Pulses are 20 to 25% protein by weight, which is double the protein content of wheat and three times that of rice. While pulses are generally high in protein, and the digestibility of that protein is also high, they often are relatively poor in the essential amino acid methionine, although Indian cuisine includes sesame seeds, which contain high levels of methionine. Grains (which are themselves deficient in lysine) are commonly consumed along with pulses to form a complete diet of protein.

Pulses have significant nutritional and health advantages for consumers. They are the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities and in the Seven Countries Study; legume consumption was highly correlated with a reduced mortality from coronary heart disease. Furthermore, pulses are especially high in amylose starch making them a good source of prebiotic resistant starch.

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