Sometimes a very random event brings a writer to an idea for a weekly column.
Recently I was in a local sandwich shop in Yorkton and decided to try the spicy black bean offering. I tend to like to try different things when out for a meal, and I do like spicy, so I figured why not.
Since I was able to customize the offering the way I wanted, sprouts, humus, feta cheese, and black olives etc., it tasted great.
But where the little push came in was the question from the gal making the pita sandwich; ‘was I a vegetarian?’
I have to admit that is one question which I would have put high on my ‘never going to be asked that’ list. I grew up on a mixed farm, pigs, chickens, often a calf to raise over summer to butcher in the fall, so meat was part of every meal, and while I will occasionally happily graze a salad for supper, I am pretty far from the vegetarian lifestyle, not that there is anything wrong with making a personal choice in what we eat.
The question did have me thinking though.
In recent years I have begun to consume far more pulse/legumes than I did when I was younger.
While mom and grandma grew green and yes those terrible yellow beans which were served in a tomato soup sauce, and there were of course pork ‘n beans on every camper trip, that was about it.
If a lentil came into the house back then it would have had to have been hidden in the rarely eaten store bought soup in a can. They were simply not heard of that I recall.
Since then I have found a love of Indian food where lentils and beans are widely used.
I have also found I have added lentils, green, red, Spanish and beluga to my own cooking. They were in the pumpkin chicken stew I whipped up for a Halloween gathering of friends, and they were in the traditional pot of chili that was part of watching the recent Grey Cup.
And it’s the same with beans, and even chickpeas, they are showing up on the plate on more regular basis as I learn how tasty they can be in a variety of dishes.
As my interest in eating lentils, beans and peas has grown, so too has Prairie farmer interest in growing the crops, in particular in Saskatchewan.
The United Nations is about to increase pulse crop awareness even more. The organization has designated 2016, International Year of Pulses.
Recently, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced $100,000 in funding to support activities for the 2016 IYOP. The announcement was made in Mumbai, India, where the premier was touring promoting Saskatchewan as a supplier to India of food and fuel.
“The International Year of Pulses will act as a catalyst for heightened awareness of the vital role pulses play in the pursuit of global food security,” Wall said in a release. “As one of the world’s largest producers of pulses, the declaration is an opportunity for Saskatchewan to showcase its leadership and pursue further export market development.”
I have to say I see the investment by the province as a good one, since pulse crops are an area which could see more farmers dedicating acres to given the huge world demand for the crops, and helping facilitate ties to a major user like India makes sense.
And from a personal perspective the more I learn about pulses, the more often they find their way to the cooking pot.