What are the differences between legumes and pulses?

know you peas, beans and sprouts

You may not have yet heard of the term “pulse or legume” as it relates to food. But the chances are that you eat these nutrition-packed superfoods regularly.

But what's the difference between pulses and legumes? Pulses are the dried edible seeds of various legumes. They include lentils, dried peas, and beans. While the entire plant, fresh fruits, and sprouts are classified as legumes.


Legumes vs. pulses

A legume is a plant that develops seeds inside protective pods. Sprouts and pods of some legumes are picked and eaten fresh. Or frozen or pickled for later use.

Another characteristic of legumes are the nodules on the roots of legumes plants. The nodes are home to nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The bacteria and legume have a beneficial symbiosis that also benefits surrounding plants, and improves soil fertility.

There are thousands of different types of legumes. However, one of the most well-known legumes is the peanut. Other legumes include English peas, alfalfa, soybeans, green beans, and snow peas.

Parts of a peanut plant


Legumes vs. Pulses

Pulses are a group of 12 legumes that includes chickpeas, dry beans, dry peas, and lentils. Pulses are the edible dry seeds of the legume family. Pulses come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and grow in pods.

Pulses have been used for thousands of years and form the base of hummus, dal curry, and the British classic breakfast of baked beans on toast.

Legumes vs. Pulses

History and future of pulses and legumes

Could legumes be the first plant humans cultivated for food?

Humans have a long history of consuming pulses. They have been cultivating these crops for more than 11,000 years.

The first written mention of humans eating pulses comes from Homer’s famous Greek poem “The Iliad.” Archeologists have also found evidence that humans grew chickpeas and other pulses dating back to the 7th Century B.C.

Today, global pulse production is increasing on a yearly basis. Legumes crops are often grown developing countries and arid regions that are unable to support livestock. And in more fertile regions legumes are grown on a massive scale and are major exports of the United States and Canada. In fact, global pulse production has nearly doubled in the last three decades. Experts estimate that global pulse production will once again double by the year 2050 as the demand for plant-based proteins grows.

Legumes and pulses history

Why grow Legumes in your garden?

Pulses and sustainable agriculture

Pulses are good for the environment because they promote sustainable agriculture. As the world’s population grows, governments around the world are implementing to lower the environmental footprint of food production. Growing legumes uses less water than many other fruits and vegetables and require less fertilizer. Legumes are often used in crop rotation and in pasture to increase soil fertility.
Increase soil fertility naturally

Helps Other Crops Grow

Legumes are much healthier for the soil than other types of crops. Legumes have nitrogen-fixing bacteria that grow on plants' root systems. These beneficial bacteria are a natural and sustainable way to add nitrogen to the soil, which helps leafy crops to grow. When legumes are grown in rotation with other crops, the other crops grow better as a result of the healthy microbes and nitrogen in the soil.

Low Carbon Footprint

Legumes require less fertilizer than other monoculture crops and the land often requires less irrigation and tilling. Unused land can be planted in legumes to restore the soil fertility and harvested for winter feed for livestock. Clover is often added to pasture to further reduce the need to apply fertilizers and to provide winter food for pollinating insects.

Less Water

Many legumes are well adapted for growing in dry and drought-prone areas. They extract water from a shallower depth and often benefit from a simple drip irrigation system. If you have a dry area in your garden consider planting running beans. you won't have to water them everyday and they are fantastic croppers. And just two or three plants should provide you and your family enough beans for the entire summer.
Legumes are drought tolerant

Why eat legumes and pulses?

Pulses are not only good for the environment — they are good for the body too.