Not all pulses are created equal.
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Alright, folks—let’s talk about pulses. Not the one that thumps from your heart and throughout your veins and arteries, but the little seedlings that you might soak overnight and then cook in a pot of chili or soup. Yes, those pulses, as in, beans and peas. Both belong to the legume (Leguminosae) family, making them largely similar crops. They share similar nutritional properties in that they possess a good amount of protein, fiber, and fat.

When talking about pulses, you might hear any of the following terms—beans, peas, pods, seeds, and legumes. Okay, what?! How do we differentiate and categorize them all? For the most part, the difference between all of the above groups is miniscule, and in certain situations, the terms can be used interchangeably. In fact, the linguistics behind these terms is somewhat complex and further confuses the situation. A pea technically falls under the umbrella of the bean family, but specifically refers to the seed of a plant from the Pisum sativum family. Did we mention that there are over 40,000 bean varieties? Yeah, it’s a lot to digest, I know. That said, “bean” and “pea” are not generally regarded as precise terms—they both refer to the seed of a plant, but different sources define seeds and the families in which they are a part of differently.

Without overcomplicating things and getting too hung up on semantics, let’s focus on the main overarching difference between beans and peas. One of their most identifiable differentiating factors is their stem—a pea has a hollowed-out stem, whereas a bean has a more solid stem. Seems minor, right? Well, that’s because it is. This biological difference does account for the fact that beans tend to lack tendrils in comparison to peas, which grow in a spiral, twine-like fashion due to the presence of said tendrils. While their growth patterns differ, the two botanical species remain quite similar. Additionally, peas are typically consumed in their dried form, whereas beans can be consumed fresh or in their dried. All this to say, don’t let the minor nuances between these two legumes deter you from making them a staple in your diet. Do not be afraid to pulse it out.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane