Hungary ’pulsified’ in 2016

16 December 2016, Budapest, Hungary – Food-themed international UN years can pose a challenge if the selected ingredient is neither well-known nor a widely available staple. With pulses there is no such difficulty in the focus of 2016 – especially not in Hungary.

Pulse dishes are deeply enrooted in Hungarian gastronomy and culture. Take the lentil as an example, which is traditionally consumed on New Year’s Eve to ensure future wealth and prosperity.

In 2016, the International Year of Pulses was therefore a good occasion to also shed light on other values of pulses: their health and nutritional benefits as well as their contribution to soil health and climate change mitigation. The following events held throughout the year, although the list is not comprehensive, aimed to incorporate these aspects and inform many people, making the production and consumption of pulses a more conscious choice.

Although scientific education is part of the school curricula in Hungary, the Hungarian School Gardening Foundation believes that children should have direct experience with plants and earth. In early summer, the school launched a competition for existing and planned school gardens which also included leguminous plants. Prizes included horticulture equipment to aid in the construction or maintenance of the schoolyard.

On 29 September, the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture convened an expert conference dedicated to the hidden potential of pulses. The event – organized in collaboration with relevant institutions, research centres, academia, the private sector, and FAO – was opened by FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative Vladimir Rakhmanin.

Challenges of pulse production, the protection of genetic resources, international trade, and the view of pulses from a consumer perspective were some of the other topics addressed in the conference. A photo exhibition, food tasting and a display of pulses were other popular events of the day.

Furthermore, the French Institute dedicated a one-day conference to the ‘nutritious seeds’, in which Eleonora Dupouy, FAO food safety and consumer protection officer, talked about the usefulness of pulses. Beyond some food for thought, participants could taste Turkish lentil dishes and even take away some plant seeds. The thematic event was part of the Institute’s environmental month, held every year since 2002.

Moreover, the Institute ran a competition among Hungarian high schools. The students were asked to prepare visual materials in groups with the aim to convince consumers about the positive impacts of buying and eating pulses.

The winning team of the Janus Pannonius High School in Pécs, developed a webpage in French, loaded with information, recipes, interesting and fun facts, and even with fairy tales – all related to pulses. Other students awarded, who studied at the Kölcsey Ferenc High School, conducted short video reports involving a restaurant owner cooking pulses and a FAO expert.

The International Year of Pulses 2016 will soon conclude, however, FAO-produced infographics and information materials will continue to be available and accessible online – also from Hungary.