On Valentine’s Day, a Love Letter to Legumes

February 14, 2020 | 8:00 am
Sarah Reinhardt
Former Contributor

Kidneys are red,

Adzukis are too.

Legumes of the world,

I wrote this for you.

Dear Legumes,

(including all kinds of beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and even alfalfa and clover, plus your dried cousins in the pulse family),

I know I shouldn’t wait for a corporate holiday to say it—and apparently Hallmark doesn’t make cards for crops anyhow—but I can’t let today go by without telling you what I feel for you. It’s a soul-feeding, life-changing, makes-the-world-a-better-place kind of love, and I want to tell you why.

You’re good for me.

Like, really good. Pulses, especially, bring a lot of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals like folate, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium to the table. (And it turns out I’m not the only one who needs that in my life. Fiber and potassium are both “nutrients of public health concern” because so many people aren’t getting enough of them.) You make me feel so alive—almost like you’re adding years to my life—while keeping me grounded with a dependability and regularity that I’ve never had before.

You’re so resilient.

You weather the challenges life brings better than any crop I know, and somehow make everyone around you better in the process. Planting more of you can help farmers reduce heat-trapping emissions and use less fossil fuel-based fertilizer, and when you’re used as cover crops like alfalfa and clover, you produce both healthier soil and high-quality feed for livestock.

Not to mention the way you pull an essential element out of thin air and turn it into food for other plants. You really are the magical fruit.

You’re versatile (and delicious).

My love of legumes runs in the family. For decades, the Jack Rabbit Beans sign on top of the grain elevator of the Michigan Bean Company lit up the skyline of Saginaw, Michigan, where my dad was born. Saginaw County remains a leading producer of dried beans and peas in the state. Photo: Jeff Schrier, The Saginaw News (1998)

Pulses, you are the Regina King of plants, the Meryl Streep of proteins. You can do anything. You’re somehow classified as both a protein and a vegetable by the Dietary Guidelines. You can stand alone as a plant-based prima donna, or you can blend with beef in a duet that delivers the best of both worlds. You’re breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’re a snack.

Plus, you’re a cheap date (in a good way). Beans, nuts, and seeds have been ranked as the food group providing the highest nutritional value at the lowest cost.

And I’m not foolish enough to think you’re all mine. You’re an international celebrity, the star of cuisines all over the world, from black beans and rice to dal to hummus to minestrone to tofu. Even cattle are into you. And you deserve that kind of attention—it’s beyond me why the United States still treats you like a second-class seed (although some have been singing your praises for years).

I’m just happy you’re in my life. Thank you for being everything that you are to me, and to the farmers, food producers, climate champions, cooks, and eaters of the world.

Looking forward to dinner tonight. (Can’t wait to see you in that red sauce I like.)