As you gear up for Stampede, some of us get kinda excited about agriculture. There’s a lot you can learn on Stampede Park about how your food gets to your plate. For example: Pulses.

This summer as you venture outside the city and drive through rural Alberta, you may notice some different plants in the fields. You’ll see the usual beautiful yellow canola fields and golden wheat fields, but you may also see some pulse crops growing in Alberta fields.

Over 5,000 Alberta farmers grow pulses. So what are pulses? Have you heard of peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas? These are all known as pulses, the edible seeds of legumes. Each of these types of pulse crops comes in a wide range of colours and sizes.

Fun Fact: The name pulse is derived from the Latin puls meaning thick soup or potage.

Bags of pulse crops such as lentils and chickpeas. Photo courtesy Alberta Pulse Growers.
Bags of pulse crops such as lentils and chickpeas. Photo courtesy Alberta Pulse Growers.

And this year, pulses just happen to be in the international limelight. The United Nations has declared 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP).

“IYP draws attention to important global issues like nutrition, food security and environmental sustainability,” said Sylvan Lake area farmer Allison Ammeter, chair of the Alberta Pulse Growers and the IYP Canada Committee. “It will leverage the international focus on pulses to build more demand for the pulses produced by Canadian growers, including those in Alberta. It also emphasizes the important role that beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas play in contributing to healthy people and a healthy planet.”

The Alberta Pulse Growers (APG), the industry association representing provincial pulse growers, has joined the festivities and is celebrating IYP in various ways.

In addition to joining with its counterparts across the country to promote IYP through national initiatives like the Pulse Feast in Toronto featuring IYP ambassador Chef Michael Smith, APG has ramped up its own consumer engagement efforts. These activities include the creation of a special IYP 2016 calendar, increased printed recipe resources and an amplified presence at food-related events.

IYP provides an ideal opportunity for the APG to further engage with chefs, who can then share the many benefits of eating pulses with a wider consumer audience, said Ammeter.

A major component of APG’s chef outreach during IYP is through a partnership with the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance (ACTA) to offer numerous dining events featuring beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. APG provided sponsorship to ACTA that included challenging chefs at various ACTA culinary events taking place throughout 2016 to use pulses in innovative ways, said Ammeter.

A special event that APG and ACTA are collaborating on is the Alberta Chef Pulse Development Day taking place now in June. Ten accomplished Alberta chefs from Calgary and Edmonton will participate in a tour that includes a crop walk to see pulses growing in the field, said Ammeter, and a tour of Alberta Agriculture’s Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc. The chefs also accepted the challenge to develop a pulse-based product that could possibly be scaled up at the centre for retail sale in the future.

As we celebrate International Year of Pulses this year, don’t forget that our province is home to many pulse crops.

Here are a few Alberta pulse facts: 

  • There are over 5,000 pulse growers in Alberta.
  • Field peas are the most widely grown pulse crop in Alberta.
  • Chickpea and lentil production occurs predominantly in southern Alberta where the growing season is the longest.

Source: Alberta Pulse Growers

Peas growing in an Alberta field. Photo courtesy Alberta Pulse Growers.
Peas growing in an Alberta field. Photo courtesy Alberta Pulse Growers.

Would you like to learn more about pulses? You can during Stampede! The International Year of Pulses 2016 Travelling Exhibit will be on display in the Agrium Western Event Centre. Stop by and check it out!

And don’t forget to visit the Alberta Pulse Growers and Pulse Canada websites.