Word of the Month: Pulse

David Zapatka

David Wittenberg, fellow member of the Grammar Police Special Interest Group, wrote this in a recent post. “For most Indians, meat is not a staple. The majority of the Indian diet consists of grains, pulses, and vegetables. As a result, Indians don’t talk about meat the way Americans do. The terms ‘veg’ and ‘non-veg’ refer to dietary habits and thus, only by extension, to the foods in question. On a menu, dishes are listed or marked as veg or non-veg. Some restaurants are ‘pure veg.’

In North India, about 45% of the people are vegetarians. However, there’s a wide range of practices that fall under that heading ranging from Jain (they only eat plant parts and eschew onions and other roots that die when harvested) to vegan, vegetarian, ‘eggetarian,’ and ‘vegetarian on Tuesdays.’ Others avoid only red meats but consume chicken and fish.”

Pulse—noun (There are many definitions of this word but for this column, this is the only one we will research.): the edible seeds of several crops (such as peas, beans, or lentils) of the legume family; also: a plant yielding pulse

Origin and Etymology—Middle English puls, probably from Anglo-French puuiz gruel, from Latin pult-, puls, probably from Greek poltos

First Known Use—13th century

What is a pulse crop? Pulses are annual crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds. The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely as dry grains, which differentiates them from other vegetable crops that are harvested while still green. Between 2010 and 2013, 173 different countries grew and exported pulses.

What is a pulse and why should you eat them? What exactly are these suddenly trendy ingredients? In short, a pulse is the edible seed of legumes and includes all types of beans, peas and lentils. While they’ve suddenly come into the spotlight, pulses themselves are not new: They were first grown in the Middle East more than 10,000 years ago.

What is the difference between a legume and a pulse? The entire legume plant is often used in agricultural applications (as cover crops or in livestock feed or fertilizers), while the seeds or pulses are what typically end up on our dinner plates. Beans in their various forms (kidney, black, pinto, navy, chickpeas, etc.) are just one type of pulse.

Pulse used on the web:

Although used interchangeably, the terms “legumes,” “pulses,” and “beans” have distinct meanings. A legume refers to any plant from the Fabaceae family that would include its leaves, stems, and pods. A pulse is the edible seed from a legume plant. Pulses include beans, lentils, and peas. For example, a pea pod is a legume, but the pea inside the pod is the pulse.—T.H. Chan, Harvard School of Public Health

What favorite pulses do you enjoy eating? Would you like to share those with our readers? Please submit your experiences or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected].