When faced with the question “What are pulses?,” the majority of us would shake our heads in confusion. According to the Manitoban Pulse and Seed Growers, a pulse, or pulses, refers to the “term for the edible seeds of legumes (plants with a pod) which includes peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans.” Douglas & McIntyre’s The Power of Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans Chickpeas, Favas and Lentils, a new veget arian cookbook designed with pulses in mind, comes out this year, with 2016 named the Year of the Pulses by the United Nations. Hosting a variety of recipes ranging from salads, soups, and dressings to pies, cookies, and brownies made from pulses, the cookbook inspires even the most reluctant cook to try something new.

Lifestyle_Powerof01Not your typical cookbook, the first part includes a few chapters of information on growing your own pulses by Dan Jason, owner of Salt Spring Seeds.

His fascination with pulses started 30 years ago when he took an interest in gardening.

“I was trying to figure out the best foods that could be grown out of a garden and I came up with beans,” says Jason. “[People] think they’re going to give us gas, that they’re hard to digest and take forever to cook, but I’ve discovered from growing my own that it’s far different. When you grow your own, you eat relatively fresh, dried beans within a year of harvesting them and that’s why they’re so popular around the world.”

Jason has since made it his mission to promote the benefits of pulses.

According to pulsecanada.com, Canada has become one of the world’s biggest exporter of lentils and peas, and one of the world’s major exporters of beans, with exports growing exponentially over the past 25 years.

“When you add it all up, the way we grow food is a big contributor to climate change, and nobody talks about that issue,” says Jason.

Hilary Malone, from Nanaimo’s Sea Salt Food Company and one of the co-authors to the book, could not agree more.

“[The book] dives into the global realm [that pulses] are a great source of protein and they aren’t coming from an animal source,” says Malone. “Even if you are a person that makes protein a stable part of your diet, [pulses] are certainly something to explore.”

After establishing her company in 2012 with her sister, Alison Malone Eathorne, and later starting a catering company under the same name, the two VIU grads published a book with boat-friendly recipes. Last year, after being approached by their publisher to cooperate with Jason to create The Power of Pulses, the two set out on a five-month intensive cooking spree to create and perfect some new pulse-centred recipes.

“For us it was just about creating good, approachable recipes that were still flavour forward,” says Malone. “In some situations, the bean is the star; in others, it’s adding texture or being used as a binder. We’re playing with a lot of texture.”

Playing around with new textures and flavours to create varied vegetarian and sometimes vegan recipes is something most North Americans would balk at. However, according to Malone and Jason, it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Protein can be a bit of a mindset in our North American diets—protein, starch, vegetables,” says Malone. “For many reasons, we need to be changing how a dinner plate looks.

Change doesn’t mean sacrifice, points out Jason.

“We don’t have to give up meat and dairy,” he says. “Just to eat a bigger proportion of pulses would help enormously [with climate change].”

The Power of the Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas, and Lentils will be launched at White Sails Brewing on April 24. You can also find more information on the authors at seasaltfoodco.com and saltspringseeds.com. The book can also be purchased on amazon.ca.