Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Legume any plant which belongs to the family of Leguminosae, characterized by seed-bearing pods; or the seeds themselves, usually called beans or peas.

The word, which entered the English language in the 17th century, has tended to oust the older word pulse, although the older term is still current.

Legumes grow throughout the world and were amongst the earliest food crops cultivated by man. The patterns established then have come down through history and it is striking that particular legumes have an overriding importance in individual countries. The haricot bean is associated with C. and S. America, the soya bean with E. Asia, lentils with India. See also the list of entries at the end.