BIG OPPORTUNITIES FOR LITTLE BEANS
TRENDSETTING CHEFS INSPIRE CONSUMERS TO EMBRACE PULSES DURING INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF PULSES
BY RACHEL PETERSON
Chefs are today’s rock stars and providing them with innovative educational opportunities allows them to be ambassadors for many tantalizing foods, including pulses—the official term for beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
The Alberta Pulse Growers Commission (APG) ramped up its efforts to encourage Albertans to grow, buy and eat more pulses in 2016 for International Year of Pulses (IYP), a global initiative by the United Nations. This was especially evident in the area of chef outreach, said Debra McLennan, food and nutrition co-ordinator for APG and a registered dietitian.
“International Year of Pulses provides an ideal opportunity for the Alberta Pulse Growers to further engage with chefs, who can then share the many benefits of eating pulses with a wider audience,” McLennan explained. “My hope is that Alberta chefs will have a renewed interest in utilizing pulses on their menus and see that there are a variety of ways to add pulses to meet consumer needs.”
A major component of APG’s chef outreach during IYP is a partnership with the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance (ACTA) to hold several dining events featuring beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. APG provided sponsorship to ACTA to challenge chefs to use pulses in innovative ways at various ACTA culinary events taking place throughout 2016.
“We can help grow the profile of pulses through the chefs because they’re influencers,” said ACTA executive director Tannis Baker, noting that ACTA challenged a chef at the April Juno Awards ceremony in Calgary to use pulses for the reception. “People are following chefs, watching what they’re doing and wanting their recipes, so we are working to create recipes, educate and really grow our own local industry in partnership with chefs. It’s a real win-win.”
A special event that APG and ACTA collaborated on was the Alberta Chef Pulse Development Day in June 2016. Ten accomplished Alberta chefs from Calgary and Edmonton participated in a tour that included a crop walk to see pulses growing in the field and a tour of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc. The chefs accepted the challenge to develop a pulse-based product that could be enhanced at the centre for retail sale in the future.
Liana Robberecht, executive chef at WinSport in Calgary, created an “energy cookie” for pulse development day in partnership with pastry chef Melanie Hennessey. The cookie is made of chickpea flour, lentils, dried fruits, spices and cricket flour to boost the protein content even further.
“As WinSport caters to athletes, creating the energy cookie has been an exciting project in which we are able to offer a healthy yet delicious fuel for the many professional athletes who train here,” said Robberecht. “The pulse workshop is like a think tank—an exchange of ideas with some of the most talented chefs around. Having the opportunity to share our recipes and ideas with each other will push the boundaries of our own comfort zone into an elevated pulse product. We are thrilled to be part of this event.”
The partnership between APG and ACTA also includes a number of culinary events featuring pulses that are open to the public during International Year of Pulses. Visit albertaculinary.com
For pulse-producing nations like Canada, 2016 is a year full of events, activities and initiatives aimed at increasing consumer awareness and consumption of pulses. One of these initiatives involves inviting people around the globe to take the Pulse Pledge (pulsepledge.com) to include more pulses in their diets. Alberta farmers grew pulses on 1.8 million acres last year.
“IYP draws attention to important global issues like nutrition, food security and environmental sustainability,” said Sylvan Lake-area farmer Allison Ammeter, chair of APG and the IYP Canada Committee. “This attention will ensure the Canadian industry will continue to grow and keep Canadian pulses competitive at the farm level. It also emphasizes the important role that beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas play in contributing to healthy people and a healthy planet.”
Pulses are high in protein, iron and fibre, have a low glycemic index and ¾ cup (175 mL) counts as one Canada’s Food Guide serving as a meat alternative.
Many cultures around the world have known the nutritional value of pulses for thousands of years and incorporated them into their diets. IYP is a good opportunity to remind people about this delicious and inexpensive source of protein.
“I’m really excited about International Year of the Pulses, which I feel is an exciting opportunity to give pulses the long-
deserved spotlight this highly nutritious food deserves,” said Robberecht. “Pulses have long been overshadowed by other proteins and vegetables, but now it’s becoming a first choice for grocery shoppers and chefs alike. I have been a longtime admirer of all pulses, especially lentils and chickpeas, which are often found in many of the dishes I create at WinSport.”
APG’s relationship with chefs blossomed in 2016, but the seed was planted many years ago. The commission regularly engages with student chefs through the Toque Demagny student cooking competition and dinner, which takes place each November at NAIT. Toque Demagny is one of Edmonton’s premier culinary events, featuring the talents of NAIT’s culinary arts students and a number of Alberta food products, including pulses. APG has sponsored this student cooking competition for several years. The student teams use pulses in their creations, and scholarships are awarded in a variety of categories.
Chef outreach is also accomplished through APG’s membership in Taste Alberta, which works to tell the Alberta food story creatively so that Albertans understand that eating local supports local economies. Pulses are highlighted at events such as Christmas in November at Jasper Park Lodge and the Prairie on a Plate dining series.
For more information about Alberta pulses, pulse events and delicious pulse recipes, visit pulse.ab.ca or follow APG on Twitter @AlbertaPulse. To learn more about International Year of Pulses, visit iypcanada.ca.