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Varieties of soybean seeds, a popular legume
Pea pods

A legume in botanical writing is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or a fruit of these specific plants. A 'legume' fruit is a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces (opens along a seam) on two sides. A common name for this type of fruit is a pod, although "pod" is also applied to a few other fruit types, such as vanilla. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soy, and peanuts.

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History

The term legume is derived from the Latin word legumen (with the same meaning as the English term), which is in turn believed to come from the verb legere "to gather." English borrowed the term from the French "légume," which, however, has a wider meaning in the modern language and refers to any kind of vegetable; the English word legume being translated in French by the word légumineuse.

The history of legumes is tied in closely with that of human civilization, appearing early in Asia, the Americas (the common Phaseolus bean in several varieties), and Europe (broad beans) by 6,000 BC, where they became a staple, essential for supplementing protein where there was not enough meat.

Fixation of nitrogen in the soil

Legume plants are notable for their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, thanks to a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria known as rhizobia found in root nodules of these plants. The ability to form this symbiosis reduces fertilizer costs for farmers and gardeners who grow legumes, and allows legumes to be used in a crop rotation to replenish soil that has been depleted of nitrogen. The nitrogen fixation ability of legumes is enhanced by the availability of calcium in the soil and reduced by the presence of ample nitrogen.

Legume seed and foliage have a comparatively higher protein content than non-legume material, probably due to the additional nitrogen that legumes receive through nitrogen-fixation symbiosis. This high protein content makes them desirable crops in agriculture.

Uses by humans

Freshly-dug peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)
White clover, a forage crop

Farmed legumes can belong to many agricultural classes, including forage, grain, blooms, pharmaceutical/industrial, fallow/green manure, and timber species. Most commercially farmed species fill two or more roles simultaneously, depending upon their degree of maturity when harvested.

Forage legumes are of two broad types. Some, like alfalfa, clover, vetch (Vicia), stylo (Stylosanthes), or Arachis, are sown in pasture and grazed by livestock. Other forage legumes such as Leucaena or Albizia are woody shrub or tree species that are either broken down by livestock or regularly cut by humans to provide livestock feed.

Grain legumes are cultivated for their seeds, and are also called pulses. The seeds are used for human and animal consumption or for the production of oils for industrial uses. Grain legumes include beans, lentils, lupins, peas, and peanuts.[1]

Legume species grown for their flowers include lupins, which are farmed commercially for their blooms as well as being popular in gardens worldwide.

Industrially farmed legumes include Indigofera and Acacia species, which are cultivated for dye and natural gum production, respectively.

Fallow/green manure legume species are cultivated to be tilled back into the soil in order to exploit the high levels of captured atmospheric nitrogen found in the roots of most legumes. Numerous legumes farmed for this purpose include Leucaena, Cyamopsis, and Sesbania species.

Various legume species are farmed for timber production worldwide, including numerous Acacia species and Castanospermum australe.

Nutritional facts

Legumes contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine. That is why some vegetarian cultures - in order to get a balanced diet, and almost in an involuntary manner - combine their diet of legumes with grains. Grains, on the other hand, contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid lysine, which legumes contain. Thus a combination of legumes with grains forms a well-balanced diet for vegetarians. Common examples of such combinations are dal with rice by Indians, and beans with corn tortillas, tofu with rice, and peanut butter with wheat bread (as sandwiches) in several other cultures, including Americans.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ The gene bank and breeding of grain legumes (lupine, vetch, soya, and beah) , B.S. Kurlovich and S.I. Repyev (eds.), St. Petersburg:N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, 1995, 438p. - (Theoretical basis of plant breeding. V.111)
  2. ^ Vogel, Steven. Prime Mover – A Natural History of Muscle. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., USA (2003), p. 301. ISBN 039332463X; ISBN 978-0393324631.

External links

  • AEP - European association for grain legume research
  • Lupins - Geography, classification, genetic resources and breeding
  • ILDIS - International Legume Database & Information Service
  • Legume classes from LegumeChef.com
  • Bioversity International The significance of Vavilov’s scientific expeditions and ideas for development and use of legume genetic resources

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to legume article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also légume

Contents

English

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Etymology

From French légume, from Latin legūmen ‘bean’.

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /lɪˈgjuːm/

Noun

Singular
legume

Plural
legumes

legume (plural legumes)

  1. The fruit or seed of leguminous plants (as peas or beans) used for food; a vegetable used for food.
  2. Any of a large family (Leguminosae syn. Fabaceae) of dicotyledonous herbs, shrubs, and trees having fruits that are legumes or loments, bearing nodules on the roots that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and including important food and forage plants (as peas, beans, or clovers).
  3. Pod dehiscent into two pieces or valves, and having the seed attached at one suture, as that of the pea.

Derived terms

Translations


Italian

Noun

legume m. (plural legumi)

  1. peas, beans, lentils and similar pulses

Simple English


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A legume is a type of dry fruit. Legumes can be a variety of fruits: peas and beans are types of legumes.

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What legumes have in common

Legumes grow from the carpel, the female reproductive part of a plant. The fruit of a legume is found inside a pod that can be split on both sides. However, there are some foods that grow inside pods that are not legumes.

Health

Legumes contain many healthy nutrients, such as protein. They are good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, people who do not eat meat. They also contain fibre, which promotes a healthy digestive system. However, they contain some nutrients which humans struggle to digest. It is recommended that a legume is soaked in a weak acid for about 10 hours before cooking, to destroy these nutrients.[needs proof] Some amino acids, such as methionine, are not abundant in some legumes but are needed to help the body use protein.

Use

India imports (buys from other countries) the most legumes. This may be because a lot of Indians follow the religion of Hinduism, which does not approve of people eating meat. Legumes are a cheap and plentiful source of food in a country were around 22% of the population are in poverty. The top four producers and exporters (selling to other countries) of legumes are:

The USA uses legumes for a variety of reasons, and is the highest producer. It uses soybeans to feed cattle and make vegetable oil. Peanuts are a popular snack food in the USA and these are also a type of legume.

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