What legumes were eaten in antiquity and in the early Middle Ages?

Archaeological studies attest that since Prehistory in the Near East, Europe and Central America, they were consumed wild forms of legumes: beans, lentils e ceci. They were then cultivated by all the populations of antiquity and of subsequent eras for their own protein content. It was this aspect, coupled with the low cost and to long shelf life, making them essential in the diet of the humble classes of society, who could not afford meat. They were therefore defined “the meat of the poor”. But which legumes were eaten in antiquity and in the early Middle Ages?

Legumes in the ancient world

Precisely because of their importance, in Mesopotamia legumes – above all chickpeas, lentils and beans – were grown not only in private gardens but also on vast public lands. The Egyptians since ancient times they ate a fair variety of legumes: lupins, chickpeas, broad beans and lentils (of the latter they were great exporters), and later also peas. Lentils were also appreciated by Phoenicianswhile the ancients Chinese they cultivated soybeans and then consumed it in various ways: in the form of sprouts, flour, oil, milk, cheese and sauce. In the Indus Valley instead they ate a kind of wild pea and in the civilization of the Maya the beans.

Legumes in the classical world

Also for i Greeks legumes had great importance, as evidenced by the belief according to which it was the god Poseidon who gave them lentil and chickpea soups. Broad beans, lentils, vetch (today used as fodder or animal feed) e different types of chickpeas they were the most widespread legumes, also mentioned in a text by Hippocrates. For the Romani legumes were part of the cropsthe products of the land: chickpeas, lentils, peas, broad beans, lupins and beans were the most cultivated and accompanied the cereal focaccia in the workers’ meal, the lunch.

Legumes in the Early Middle Ages

Even in early medieval Europe, the lower classes of the population consumed legumes, in particular broad beans and beans, then chickpeas, grass peas and peas. They were often ground to obtain polenta or used for the preparation of soups and soups. Meat, however, for the Europeans of that time was already the main food, even if only the noble warriors and the high clergy could afford fresh meat on a regular basis.

The importance of legumes from a food and environmental point of view has never diminished, as evidenced by the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly of the 2016 come International year of pulses and, as of 2018, del February 10th come World legume day.

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