Author: Daniela Gruber
Emerging crops for novel food and feed products
Legumes are a sustainable source of essential nutrients and low-cost protein, which makes them very interesting for novel product formulations. An increased consumption of legumes is one possible solution to reach a more balanced plant-based diet.
In the last ten years legumes have emerged as an interesting and balanced source of nutrients for food and feed. Globally, soybean has attracted the most attention so far. New varieties such as field pea, common bean, faba bean, cowpea and lentils are also being increasingly cultivated and consumed throughout the world. These emerging crops provide a promising alternative for novel food and feed products with high commercial value.
Legumes are very special crops in terms of their benefits and various possible applications. Cowpeas, for example, are a multipurpose crop, consumed for its leaves, green pods, green beans, mature beans, or processed into paste or flour and used as an ingredient. Cowpeas are grown in many African countries, but have not yet been expanded to the European market despite their many potential applications, only a few Mediterranean countries grow this crop at very small scale.
Aside from their health benefits as a sustainable source of nutritious ingredients, legumes also offer additional advantages at farm level. Firstly, they require less mineral fertilizers due to their nitrogen fixation capability. Secondly, legumes are short season crops and can improve soil quality due to their strong root systems. A natural combination of bacterial cultures and the roots enable these plants to adapt to local soils. This means that the mixture opts for an optimal nutrient availability for specific crops in specific locations.
Vegan cheese innovation
“Blue bean” is a 100% vegan “cheese” made mainly from faba beans with the EU-funded EUROLEGUME project. The processing method for this innovative product has been described as similar to that of tofu. The faba beans are cooked, mixed with water and oil, heated and stirred, followed by the conventional maturing step for ripening the “cheese” with adequate cultures. For the fermentation, each bacterial culture produces a specific profile of flavours making up the taste of the product. Lastly, the cheese is ripened at 10°C, to be sure to get the traditional blue mould on the “cheese”. Looking at the final product, it looks very convincing, just like conventional blue cheese.
Move towards local production
All the ingredients used for the “Blue Bean” cheese are grown locally in Sweden, where the processing also takes place. Together with business partners, other suitable crop varieties were investigated in the EUROLEGUME project,, which are in line with the northern climate. With this in mind, food miles could be vastly decreased and transportation of imported products from across the world may no longer be necessary. Ultimately, the goal is to replace the imported products by locally-grown resources, setting up a whole new local value chain and opening new opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Additionally, you can check out the TRUE project which will keep you up to date on new developments. The TRUE project wants to reduce environmentally damaging greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, foster healthy nutrition with high value proteins and increase the commercial competitiveness of EU grown legume crops. Therefore, several innovative product developments (snacks, meat-analogues, pasta, baked goods) will be performed by extrusion technology at IGV GmbH, a scientific company, which won two innovation awards for vegetal protein extrudates in 2016
EUROLEGUME an EU-funded initiative
For whom: Farmers, food and feed producing and processing companies, consumers.
Objective: Increasing legume production in European countries with large amounts of available land through sustainable cropping for protein supply for food and feed.
Reason: Legume production chains have not yet been included widely into common farming practice in Europe..
How: Implementing developed innovations across the whole production chain. Starting with introducing new seed varieties into local farms, up to developing innovative plant-based products for the food and feed industry. New applications with legumes such as cow peas, faba beans and yellow peas among others have been investigated on their potential use for the market
Areas of interest: Agriculture; Biotechnology; Environmental Protection; Food Technology.
Funded by: European Union.
Partners: Latvia University of Agriculture (LLU); Pure Horticultural Research Centre, Ltd. (PHRC); Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics (AREI); BIOEFEKTS, Ltd.; Estonian Crop Research Institute (ECRI); Horticultural Department of Agricultural University of Tirana (AUT); Swedish Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering (JTI); FRESCURA SUBLIME – Unipessoal, Lda.; Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (UPCT); National Institute for Agrarian and Veterinarian Research, I.P. (INIAV); University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU); The Agricultural University of Athens (AUA); Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO); Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU); Symbiom, s.r.o.; Kpra Sdad Coop; Estirpe D’Honra, Unipessoal Lda.
Coordination: Eduardo Rosa, University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro; CITAB - Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-Environmental and Biological Sciences, Portugal.