Pulses, as we all know, are the edible seeds of the legume family. Pulses include peas, beans and lentils. Some, as green French beans, papdi, green peas and broad beans are eaten fresh. Others, like moong, urad, chana and masoor are eaten dried or sprouted. Regardless of their place of origin, most of the pulses are available world-wide and have become widely naturalized outside their native regions. But greens combined with dal are also healthy preparations. Something like Methiwali Dal.
Beans are dried as quickly as possible after picking to preserve their flavour and texture. There used to be a time when most of the pulses were sundried, but now in the present days of automation, most of it is artificially dried. Most pulses are widely available and the lesser known can usually be found in specialized stores in wholesale grain market. Pulses keep well and are easily reconstituted but should be stored in a cool and dry place. The normal shelf life of dried beans and pulses is six to nine months, then they begin to harden and shrivel.
All types of beans and lentils are high in protein and 30 per cent more is released if they are eaten with a cereal. That is why, in India, dal is eaten mostly with rice or roti. Most pulses need soaking and cooking, the exact time depends on the particular type and quality of the bean. Beans and lentils should be picked over before washing and soaking to remove any stones or pieces of grit.
In the Indian kitchen, dal is ubiquitous. Egyptian lentils called masoor, black eyed peas called lobia and mung beans called moong are worth mentioning. Dishes like Sambhar and Rasam use split pigeon peas, Dhansak uses meat and lentils. Dosas also have rice and lentils like black gram or urad. Up north, urad is a favourite as is rajma and chana.