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Sunday, December 18, 2011

LUPINS HAVE SO MANY POSSIBILITIES: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF LUPINS

LUPINS, LUPINUS GENUS
Lupins, like hollyhocks can be found in many quintessential English gardens. It is believed that the white lupin, Lupinus albus originated in Greece, and spread from there to ancient Egypt and Rome. Whatever the case, lupins, or lupines as they are spelled in American English, have been cultivated around the world for between 3 and 4 thousand years, both for animal fodder and human food. They usually grow to heights of 2 to 3 feet but can grow up to 6 feet tall. They belong to the Fabaceae or Leguminoceae family of plants so are related to the green bean, pea, indigo, the pongam tree and the Monkey Pod tree, carob and the Butterfly pea, to name but a few.
  The word lupin comes from the Latin meaning wolf (lupus) as it was believed that the lupins stole fertile land which could have been used for other crops just as a wolf stole sheep from a shepherd. We now know that they are nitrogen fixers and actually increase the fertility of poor soil. Frederick the Great of Prussia seemed aware of this fact when, in 1781 he took large quantities of lupins from the Mediterranean and transplanted them in northern Germany to improve the fertility of the soil. By the 1860s there were lupins along the Baltic coastal plains and the soil was much improved.
  The Germans have been proponents of the lupin for centuries and in 1917 a German scientist, Doctor Thomas held a Lupin Fest or banquet in Hamburg for those with an interest in botany. The feast consisted of Lupin soup, Lupin beefsteak cooked in lupin oil and seasoned with extract of lupin, with bread made from 20 % lupin flour, lupin margarine to put on the bread, lupin cheese made from lupin albumen and all this was washed down after the meal with a lupin liqueur, and lupin coffee. If someone who attended the feast felt like writing a letter, then there was paper and envelopes (with lupin adhesive) made from the fibre of lupin stems and the whole meal was served on a tablecloth which- you’ve guessed it- was made of lupin fibres. They could also wash their hands after the meal with lupin soap.                                                                                      
  After such a tour de force interest was renewed in the lupin’s possibilities, and a less bitter type of lupin was developed for human consumption during the 1920s.
  On 3rd January, 2011, it was reported in news.softpedia that a German scientist, Dr. Peter Eisner of the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising, Germany, had suggested that the lupin could be the answer to both the health of the environment and the Earth’s population, as it contained protein which was gluten-free and also lactose free so could be used in the preparation of ice-cream and cheese. He went even further when he pointed out that the protein content of lupin seeds or beans could be put to use as a meat substitute in the German wűrst (sausage). This would provide a low-fat cholesterol free sausage as the lupin bean or seed is full of healthy polyunsaturated fats and a source of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
  Writing in his Natural History in the first century BC Pliny the Elder wrote: - “No kind of food is more wholesome and light in digestion than the White lupin, (Lupinus albus) when eaten dry. If taken commonly at meals, it will contribute a fresh colour and a cheerful countenance.” Lupin seeds were sold on street corners in ancient Rome as snacks with sunflower seeds. They were also used as props in Roman tragedies and comedies, substituting for money, so were known as a mere trifle. This use was also known in Mediaeval England as they were, according to Dr. Fernie, writing in his Herbal Simples in 1897 called “tristis lupinus” meaning the sad lupins by Virgil. That being said this epithet attached to them by Virgil, probably had nothing to do with them being regarded as no money at all, but was more likely to have been a reference to the fact that in ancient Greece pilgrims visiting the Oracle of the Dead on the banks of the river Acheron ate copious amounts of lupin seeds as it was believed that they would facilitate communication with the departed whom they wished to contact. In the ancient world, lupins were thought to aid communication with spirits in the afterlife.                                            
  It has been found that lupin seeds provide one of the best sources of the amino acid, arginine, which is believed to help the health of blood vessels and to reduce high blood pressure. It should therefore help men with erectile dysfunctions. They are a useful source of β-carotene as their colour asserts. They have antioxidant properties too and so are under scrutiny by scientists.
  In the Mediterranean areas of Italy, Greece and Portugal, you can buy lupin seeds which have been pickled in brine like capers and olives, and these may be added to breakfast cereals for extra vitamins, minerals and protein. In the Andes, lupin flour is mixed with fresh papaya juice while in Australia and beans are sprouted like alfalfa and mung beans to produce bean sprouts.
  Lupin flour is gluten free and can be used in cooking and baking as it is in the med. It may be used to thicken sauces and soups and stews, or used as a face pack to rejuvenate tired skin. The seeds are roasted and used as a coffee substitute which is probably preferable to dandelion coffee, and you can also make them into a poultice (bruise and crack them) for ulcers. Taken internally the seeds have diuretic properties and have been used in traditional medicine systems to regulate a woman’s periods. They can also help regulate blood sugar levels and have a reputation for being able to rid the body of internal worms.
  Seeds from an Arctic lupin species (Lupinus articus) found in lemming burrows in the Yukon, Alaska, were dated to around 10,000 years old and were successfully germinated. They are not the oldest seeds to have done so, though as this record is held by the lotus seeds (Nelumbo nucifera) which germinated after lying dormant for 13,000 years.
  If you use lupin seeds fresh and pick them yourself you should soak them in several changes of water before using them in any way as they contain some toxic alkaloids and tannins which could react badly in the body. Leaching the beans and discarding the water will help. However, the pickled beans are cheap and delicious too. Roasted they can be combined with melon and watermelon seeds for a healthy snack.

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