Slow Food Celebrates World Pulses Day with a Year of Initiatives Involving Cooks

07 Feb 2023 | English

Restaurants challenged to add pulses to their menus to make them more sustainable in 2023

On February 10, Slow Food will celebrate World Pulses Day. Established by FAO to recognize the potential of pulses to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this day presents a unique opportunity to raise public awareness about pulses and the fundamental role they can play in the transition to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.
This year, to celebrate pulses, Slow Food is involving its international network of cooks, the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance, calling on them to add more pulses and legumes to their menus. This will raise awareness and reduce their impact one plate at a time, while exemplifying Slow Food’s “eat biodiversity to save it” philosophy.
Agronomist, food biodiversity and agroecology expert and Slow Food board member Francesco Sottile says: “Legumes fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available to plants, allowing farmers to reduce their inputs of synthetic fertilizers, in line with agroecological practices. The ability of pulses to make our soil more fertile is particularly relevant in areas where cultivation faces difficulties, as they don’t require many resources. Overall, the cultivation of pulses has a very low environmental footprint, both for water usage and for greenhouse gas emissions. Cultivated in intercropping systems, drought-resistant and deep-rooting species of legumes can supply groundwater to other crops and help people living in dry environments.
By enhancing the role of legumes, we are acting in favor of preserving food biodiversity.”
Slow Food has been promoting the production and consumption of pulses for more than 10 years with its Slow Beans network, which unites farmers, activists, cooks and anyone enthusiastic about legumes. The network aims to promote the crops by highlighting their wide-ranging benefits but also their immense biodiversity. As well as growing and promoting them, the network also organizes initiatives like the recent Let It Bean!, aimed at local mayors, and partners on campaigns like Meatless Monday.
In Italy, Slow Beans is also an annual travelling event at which visitors can meet producers who are growing legumes all over the Italian peninsula and beyond. And this year, Slow Food Italy, together with its youth network, SFYN Italy, has relaunched the initiative started in 2022, “Aggiungi un legume a tavola” (Add a Legume to the Table), calling on members of the Italian Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance to add at least one dish starring pulses to their menus. Last year over 140 cooks from all over Italy joined the initiative.
But Slow Food’s legume-promoting initiatives are not restricted to Italy. In Germany, the local Slow Food Saarland group is running its Legume Weeks (February 26 to March 12) for the eighth time, working together with restaurateurs and canteens to present beans, lentils, peas and the like in all their diversity while giving diners an exciting taste experience.
Another example is Slow Food USA’s annual Plant a Seed campaign, which in 2022 focused on six amazing beans from the 301 varieties already on board the Ark of Taste: Santa Maria Pinquito, Rockwell, Four Corners Gold, Cherokee Trail of Tears, Arikara Yellow and Hank’s Xtra Special Baking Bean. Each year, Slow Food USA puts together a cast of rare and biodiverse seeds that tell a story and promotes them to raise awareness about climate, health and food justice. The campaign ends with bean suppers held across the country. Actions like this can achieve concrete results that improve our health, the environment and food systems worldwide.
Slow Food board member Richard McCarthy, who has played both hyperlocal and global roles in growing communities through food, has this to say: “Today’s global food system fails to ensure food security and health. Environmental and social sustainability keep getting sacrificed to favor economic development. Strong political actions are needed for systemic changes. Even though you might be feeling powerless against so many critical issues, we believe that everyone can play a role in this transformation, even if only by choosing to include more pulses in your life! Pulses are indeed one of our major allies in the fight for healthier, more sustainable and affordable diets for all.”
Apart from these initiatives and the Ark of Taste catalog of foods at risk of extinction, Slow Food also protects and promotes legumes with its Presidia. There are currently 55 of these projects for legumes around the world, ranging from Bulgaria’s Smilyan bean to La Guajira cowpea in Colombia, South Korean Jeju Island fermented green soybean jang and the Sicilian Modica Cottoia fava bean from Italy.
Behind each of these 55 Presidia lies a community of producers inspired by the Slow Food philosophy, a traditional legume linked to a specific local place, a cultural heritage and a rich legacy of knowledge. As industrial monoculture-based agriculture spreads, these products are at risk of disappearing from the fields and our tables. By being part of a Presidium, producers get training and education to improve the quality of their products and sustainability, products and their place of origin are promoted at events and producers are connected to producers from other regions in their country or other parts of the world as well as to chefs, retailers, agronomists and other experts, academics, journalists and consumers.
February 10th marks an important step in Slow Food’s commitment to implementing a transition towards agroecology and a rebalancing of protein consumption from animal to alternative proteins. With many initiatives worldwide, the network will be highlighting how pulses can play a key role in a sustainable future.
You can find more information, photos, videos, stories about Slow Food’s work to promote pulses here.

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