Legume are rich of protein and oil, such as soybeans. The legume family owes its protein richness to symbiotic relationship with root-nodule bacteria witch fix free nitrogen from the air. Pulses or grain legumes are those legume seeds eaten after ripening. Preparation include soaking before cooking, or sprouting. Pulses can be stored dry for long time if protected against brunched betties and weevils.
The soybeen is the most important oil supplying crop in the world, but in Asia a large variety of fresh, fermented and dried food product are made from it. The other major oilseed is groundnut or peanut. Together they provide salad oil, cooking oil, margarine and shortening (oil palm and coconut are also important in this capacity in the wet tropics). The protein-rich cake remaining after extraction in valuable as cattle feed.
One of the most popular snacks, the south American peanut of groundnut (Arachis hypogaea) was first introduced in Indonesia from Brazil and Mexico. To day this legumes is cultivated more in south Asia than in its native country, and comprises about 10 per cent of the world production. A major world source of oil and food, the woody pods of this legume are borne on stalk-like pegs which develop in the soil. The peculiar habits is called geocarpy and known only in a few legume species. Barbara groundnut or Kacang Bogor (Vigna subterrania) is another example. Kacang Bogor is lower in fat and has only one seed per pod, that is used as snack or as vegetable.
Another vegetable legume produces industrial vegetable gums: guar (cyamposis tetranoloba) seed contain galactomannan, with a thickening property up to eighth time stronger than starch. It is used as stiffener and stabilizer in various food item. Guar pod are also eaten as vegetable or snack, and the plant is used for green manure and cove or shads crop.
Vegetables and Spices
Many legume are used as vegetable (the French word legume means vegetable) and Indonesia produce both tropical and temperate kinds although later are grown only in mountain gardens. The yard long bean (vigna unguiculata) and mungbean (V. radiate), which is world famuous for its bean sprouts are both of Asian origin. Green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) came originally from America but are now commonly grown throughout the world. Bengkowang (Pachyhizus erosus) which is sweet tubers which are eaten raw in rujak fruit salad, is also from America. Even the flower of leguminous plants may be eaten as vegetable as for example in case of Sesbania grandiflora, which is probably the world’s largest legume flower. More spice than a vegetable, the strong-tasting seeds of petai (Parkia speciosa) are used in various culinary dishes.
Legume as Fodder
Leguminous trees, shrubs and herbs play an important role as fodder for foraging species. Pastures are much improved by fast-growing legume creepers. This may be naturally occurring or introduced species. In agroforestry, legume shrubs and trees can be looped or browsed for forage. Good example include the Central and South American plants Leurina leucocephala Giridia sepium and Calliandra calothyrsus. The letter has become especially popular in Indonesia as a fodder tree which has an additional ornamental value. These species may also be used for fuel as fire or wind breaks and form attractive living fences.
An unpleasant but quite matural, aftereffect of eating too many pulses, is wind produce from the bowels. Two sugar component in pulses, stachyose and verbascose are difficult to digest as no enzymes can break them down. As a result, intestinal bacteria ferment the pulses, resulting in abnormal level of gases. The accompanying adores of fermentation is causes by methane and other volatile compounds. Well-prepared legumes in a balanced diet, eaten regularly, cause no undue trouble. Some people, however, have more sensitive bowels than others.