What is your name? Can you briefly explain what your organisation does and your role?
My name is Lucas Mourão and I’m the coordinator of Slow Food’s local community in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We are involved in the promotion of local socio-biodiversity, especially of Cerrado* fruits, through events and educational workshops.
*The Cerrado is a vast area of tropical savanna in eastern Brazil
How is your work related to legumes? Can describe a particular project that you’ve been involved in?
We plan to develop a better understanding of local bean varieties as well as investigate their socio-cultural aspects. Now we have one bean (feijão do Divino) catalogued, but we hope to have more beans catalogued in the near future.
When it comes to beans, what do you think are the biggest challenges a) for producers and b) for consumers?
Unfortunately, bean consumption has fallen in Brazil over the last 20 years due to many factors, particularly with the rise of agribusiness monoculture crops (mainly soybean, maize, and cotton). The biggest challenge for large producers is to see the value of cultivating biodiversity. On the consumer side, higher bean prices and the increasing prevalence of fast food chains and processed foods have both been an issue.
What facts about legumes do you think are useful in promoting them?
It is interesting how legumes can be a great source of protein and other nutrients in our diet. They can be a great substitute for meat and are versatile ingredients that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Also, beans’ nitrogen fixation can help to improve other crops, especially in an agroecological framework.
How did you first fall in love with legumes?
Since my childhood, I’ve always loved dishes made with beans. This interest increased when I became a vegetarian in 2015 and saw a lot of benefits from substituting meat with beans.
Do you have a favourite legume? If so, why?
I really like black-eyed peas because they’re really representative of some Brazilian dishes such as black-eyed pea salad, acarajé (fried black-eyed pea fritters), and baião de dois (black-eyed peas with rice). Also, black-eyed peas are highly nutritious. Due to its versatility in the kitchen, the chickpea is another one of my favourite legumes. It can be cooked, roasted, fried, and used as flour in many recipes… simply incredible!