Published 18.01.2024

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Taste and quality of Danish legumes

Soil, growing season, harvest and storage affect taste and quality more than storage time before consumption.

Foreign legumes may have been stored for quite some time by the time they are sold for consumption. It is thus interesting to investigate whether it affects the taste of the legumes positively or whether other benefits are gained from growing legumes locally so that the path from field to fork is as short as possible. The present taste test includes grain legumes that have been stored for one or two years and the development within one year is followed.

Lentils, peas, chickpeas and fava beans tested

Eight different dried legumes are included in the taste test, which was carried out by sensory expert Agnes Qvortrup, Danish Agriculture and Food Council, and the report contains useful information about the sensory quality. However, more analyses and tests are necessary to demonstrate whether the quality and freshness of organic legumes produced in Denmark, in general, are better than that of imported legumes, Agnes Qvortrup states in the report.

The quality of the legumes is examined in three areas:

  • Freshness depending on storage time
  • Quality in relation to the harvest year
  • Differences between legumes of different species 

Differences in quality according to harvest year

Appearance, taste, smell and texture are assessed on batches from the same producer in the harvest years 2020 and 2021. Fava beans and chickpeas in particular stand out with a marked difference in quality between the years. The harvest from 2020 is by far the best, which probably reflects good, dry conditions before and during harvest.

In the case of the yellow Ingrid peas, a difference was also noticed, as the peas from 2020 were drier and had a less fresh smell than the peas from 2021. This does not necessarily mean the quality is poor, but the peas have to be cooked longer before consumption.

Legumes have a flavour-binding ability

Legumes in general are not particularly flavourful. On the other hand, they have a fantastic flavour-binding ability as they absorb liquid while cooking. Overall, legumes have sweet, bitter and umami flavours. The bitter substances are primarily in the legume shell, and it is thus decisive for the taste experience whether the legumes are eaten with or without the shell.

Of the legumes tested, lentils and peas are the ones that are richest in flavour, including umami, and, in the case of peas, a well-known sweet taste. Fava beans and chickpeas are less rich in flavour on their own, but unshelled fava beans do have a nutty flavour and have a burnt/tobacco-like aroma.

Chickpeas are reminiscent of yellow peas with notes of butter, hazelnut and potato.

Report: Sensory analysis of organic legumes produced in Denmark (pdf 17 pages, in Danish)

The report and the sensory tests were completed as an activity of the project “Healthy and tasty legumes”, which received funding from "Fonden for Økologisk Landbrug".

Photo: Agnes Qvortrup

Photo: Dried organic legumes produced in Denmark which are included in the analyses: green lentils at the top, fava beans on the right, yellow peas on the left, chickpeas at the bottom. Photo: Agnes Qvortrup