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Legumes are a sustainable source of nutrients and low-cost proteins.
 2 min read

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.

Multipurpose crops

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.

More information?

Visit the EUROLEGUME website or attend the EUROLEGUME final conference in autumn 2017 in Serbia.

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

Want to get more information about this topic?
Get in touch
Contact person:
Eduardo Rosa
Project Coordinator
UTAD-CITAB – University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro and Centre for the Research and Technology in Agro-Environmental and Biological Sciences

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