Breeding for quick cooking pulses
Pulses can require soaking for up to 24 hours and a cooking time of more than 1 hour. The latter is among the main factors discouraging pulse consumption, as highlighted in the FAO’s factsheets Health benefits of Pulses and Nutritional benefits of pulses.
The necessity for quick cooking pulses is based on the world’s increasing demand for fast cooking food and on the human wish to spend less time in the kitchen. Long cooking times have indeed got a relevant impact on energy consumption, especially in many developing countries where cooking energy is mainly derived from wood. This is also a major health threat and a driver of deforestation.
Long cooking times may ultimately bring about a dietary shift from pulses to other, easier to handle, sources of food which could have negative health effects. This is particularly evident in a continent such as Africa, where pulses are the most significant source of protein and where nutrient deficiencies such as anemia are largely spread.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service Karen Cichy (dry bean geneticist), Michael Grusak (plant physiologist), and Raymond Glahn (physiologist) are currently exploring the potential of plant breeding, which commonly focuses on obtaining higher yields or improving pest resistance, to obtain quick cooking pulse varieties.
Their work focused on the genetic control of cooking time for dry beans and the nutritional implications of quick cooking. The researchers’ efforts paid off, as they found a type of bean which—after presoaking for 12 hours—cooks in just 15 minutes. The researchers are also working to determine the underlying mechanism of the quick cooking trait.
Read more about the research results in the article “The Quest for Quick Cooking Beans” by Robin Meadows.