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All about Amber and cowpea

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Health profile

There is a wide variety of amberiques and peas. These legumes contain various health benefits such as dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates and antioxidants. They also contain several important minerals such as phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. In addition to their very low cost, pulses are among the top five foods with the highest micronutrient / price ratio. The amberiques and the peas are very versatile and can be used in various culinary preparations. In addition, compared to many legumes, ambergrass is easier to digest. The following information relates to Ambergris, mung, azuki and cowpea, which all belong to the same family.

Active ingredients and properties

Some studies have associated regular consumption of legumes with various health benefits such as better control of diabetes 1 , lower risk of cardiovascular disease , 3 , better management of body weight 29 and lower risk of colorectal cancer 4 . These benefits would be partly due to various compounds present in legumes such as dietary fiber. American food recommendations suggest eating pulses a few times a week 5 , the equivalent of 3 cups 5. Finally, among the major recommendations of the American Institute for Cancer Research for the prevention of cancer, we advise the population to favor a diet composed mainly of plant foods by including a variety of vegetables and fruits, legumes and minimally processed cereal products 6 .

Dietary fiber . Legumes are all good sources of fiber. Dietary fiber, which is found only in plant products, are substances that are not digested by the body. Amberiques and peas contain 6 to 9 g of fiber per 125 ml serving and, like the majority of legumes, they have a higher proportion of insoluble fiber than soluble fiber . A diet rich in insoluble fiber helps maintain proper bowel function while a diet rich in soluble fiber can help normalize blood cholesterol, glucose and insulin levels 7. Note that it is recommended to consume 25 g of fiber per day for women from 19 to 50 years old, and 38 g per day for men of the same age group 8 and that the consumption of legumes makes it easier to achievement of this objective.

Dietary fiber, in combination with other compounds such as amylose (a constituent of starch), allows legumes to be digested more slowly. The ingestion of legumes improves blood sugar control in both diabetics and healthy people, but current scientific data do not allow precise details of the mechanisms involved. Fibers would likely have a role to play, but would not act independently. Other constituents present in legumes are also concerned .

In one study, the glycemic index of five legume varieties (mung, chickpea, white bean, black bean and pigeon pea) was assessed. The latter all have a low glycemic index, that of mung is a little higher than that of other legumes. The authors explain the variation in the glycemic index between legumes, among others, by the type and amount of fiber present and by the proportion of amyloidosis 10 . The real implication of these two compounds remains to be confirmed, however.

Antioxidants . Legumes contain molecules with antioxidant properties . These molecules are mainly found in the seed of the plant. Beans also contain volatile substances with certain antioxidant activities. In an in vitro study on the antioxidant activity of volatile compounds from different varieties of beans, those extracted from mung obtained one of the best antioxidant potentials. The antioxidant activity is probably attributable in part to two aromatic compounds, eugenol and maltol 11 , 12. In two other in vitro studies, results demonstrate that the outer shell of mung is effective against lipid oxidation and, therefore, against damage to cells. These data seem to indicate that compounds with antioxidant potential are found in the outer layer of mung 13 , 14 .

The peas also have antioxidant activity which increases when they undergo fermentation followed by heat treatment in an autoclave. Fermentation has the effect of increasing the quantity of phenolic compounds . Some phenolic compounds have antioxidant power. The high temperature reached during autoclave treatment allows the formation of new compounds (byproducts of the Maillard reaction) with high antioxidant activity 15 .

The azukis contain proanthocyanidins (group of polyphenols) that are considered powerful natural antioxidants. Studies indicate that proanthocyanidins provide better protection than vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, which are also antioxidants. Studies have shown beneficial effects of proanthocyanidins on oxidative damage associated with various diseases such as inflammation , cardiovascular disease , atherosclerosis , diabetes and cancer 16 .

The results of recent studies in diabetic rats and others with kidney disease suggest that the outer shell of azukis, which contains polyphenols and fibers , has the effect of eliminating the infiltration of a certain types of cells (macrophages) 17,18 and the expansion of glomeruli (from the blood capillaries) to the kidneys 18 . These capillaries are responsible for the progression of diabetic nephropathy, a condition of the kidney that can lead to kidney failure. These preliminary results will have to be validated within the framework of a clinical study on diabetic patients with renal impairment.

Starch . In dry mung , there is an average of 50% starch, of which about 11% is in the form of resistant starch 19 , 20 . This type of starch escapes digestion in the small intestine in the same way that dietary fiber does. The starch in mung is special since it contains more amylose than most other legumes. The chemical structure of mung starch gives it specific culinary properties. For example, vermicelli made from this starch is more resistant to heat, which prevents it from breaking or deforming during cooking 19 . Mung starch is a slowly digestible sugar that produces a low glycemic index21 . It seems that the high amylose content and the presence of resistant starch help, in the case of mung starch, to improve the carbohydrate response. This is in part the conclusion of a human study in which consumption of mung starch pasta produced a weak glycemic response compared to other types of raw and processed starch (tapioca and extruded wheat) 22 . Still in humans, researchers have shown that mung starch is absorbed more slowly than corn starch or glucose, resulting in a smaller increase in blood sugar and a glycemic index lower 20 .

In healthy rats, consumption of mung starch for five weeks had the effect of lowering blood glucose levels after eating a meal, compared to wheat starch. In animals healthy and diabetic, adding to the diet of starch of mung rather than wheat starch has reduced blood triglyceride levels and the volume of fat cells 23 . This change in adipose tissue cells was also observed in a second animal study in which, this time, mung starch was compared to corn starch 24. The results of these studies show that the consumption of starch from mung could help improve the profile of carbohydrates and blood fats in healthy individuals. It is assumed that starch from mung could have the same benefits for people with diabetes. Controlled clinical studies are required to confirm this.

Other properties

Are americus and cowpea antioxidants? We know that ambergrass and cowpea contain certain antioxidants, but currently their TAC index is not available
Are the amber and cowpea acidifying? Data not available.
Do Amber and Cowpea have a high glycemic load? A little. The glycemic load of 95 g of mung is 3, while that of 91 g of black-eyed peas is 8.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Excellent source Phosphorus . The azuki is an excellent source of phosphorus (see our profile Awards nutrient phosphorus ), while the cowpea and mung are from good sources . Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Excellent source Iron . The azuki and cowpea are of excellent sources of iron for the man , while the mung is a good source . Among women , mung , azukis and cowpeas are sources , the needs between the two sexes being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses).

Excellent source Zinc . The azuki is an excellent source of zinc for women and a good source for man , their needs are different. For their part, mung and cowpea are sources . Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (manufacture), the storage and the release of insulin.

Excellent source Manganese . The azuki is an excellent source of manganese, while mung and cowpea are from good sources . Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

Excellent source Copper . The azuki and cowpea are of excellent sources of copper, while the mung is a source . As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

Excellent source Folate . The azuki and cowpea are of excellent sources of folate, while mung is a good source . Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

Good source Magnesium . The azuki bean is a good source of magnesium. The mung and cowpea are of good sources for women and a source for the rights , their needs are different. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Good source Vitamin B1 . The cowpea is a good source of vitamin B1 while mung and adzuki are the sources . Also called thiamine , vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.

Source Potassium . Azuki and cowpea are sources of potassium. In the body, potassium is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Vitamin B2 . Mung and azuki are sources of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

Source Vitamin B3 . Mung and azuki are sources of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, this vitamin participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also participates in the DNA formation process , allowing normal growth and development.

Source Pantothenic acid . Mung, azuki and cowpea are sources of pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy present in the food we eat. It also participates in several stages of the synthesis (production) of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses) and hemoglobin.

Source Vitamin B6 . Azuki and cowpea are sources of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.

What is a “portion” of ambergrass and cowpea worth?
Weight / volume Mung, boiled,
95 g / 125 ml
Azuki, boiled,
122 g / 125 ml
Black-eyed peas, boiled,
91 g / 125 ml
Calories 100 156 105
Protein 7.2g 9.1 g 7.0 g
Carbohydrates 17.4g 30.1g 18.9g
Fat 0.5 g 0.1g 0.5 g
Dietary fiber 6.1 g 8.9 g 5.9 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File, 2005.

Protein complementarity: not that complicated!

Unlike animal proteins, legumes usually have a low content of methionine (an essential amino acid in the body), which makes their proteins incomplete. However, people who eat little or no animal protein can combine legumes with grain products or nuts, which results in complete proteins (which contain all of the essential amino acids). Adults are not obliged to seek this complementarity within the same meal, since the fact of obtaining it in the same day is usually sufficient 28 . On the other hand, it is preferable for children, adolescents and pregnant women to achieve protein complementarity in the same meal.

Compounds both harmful and beneficial in legumes

Legumes contain phytochemicals such as lectins or saponins; these compounds can decrease the bioavailability of certain nutrients. However, the researchers agree that in a North American context, where there is an abundance and diversity of food and where nutritional deficiency is rather marginal, this effect has little impact on health. In recent years, research in vitro and in animals has even associated the consumption of these compounds with certain benefits such as a reduction in the growth of cancer cells and an improvement in blood lipids 26 , 27 .


Cowpea and gastrointestinal problems . As with most legumes, the consumption of peasis often limited by the abdominal discomfort that its ingestion provides (for example, flatulence and bloating). Flatulence is caused by certain oligosaccharides (sugars) such as stachyose, raffinose and verbascose found in beans. Humans are not able to properly digest these oligosaccharides because they lack the enzymes necessary for their breakdown. The oligosaccharides then ferment in the ileum (lower part of the small intestine). Various methods such as soaking, cooking and shelling can be used to reduce flatulence and increase the digestibility of the bean. Dehulling is an industrial mechanical operation that separates the beans from their husks. The bean husk contains polyphenolswhich can interfere with the digestibility of proteins and thus increase intestinal discomfort 25 .

Amber and cowpea over time

The origin of the French word “  ambérique  ” remains obscure (“amber”?), All the more since it has disappeared from most dictionaries today. However, it continues to be used in France, while in Canada, it appears in official government documents.

The term ”  cowpea  ” (XIV th  century) comes from the Greek dolikos , which means “long”, probably referring to the length of the pod of certain varieties.

The genus Vigna includes many species, seven of which are commercially exploited for their grains. They are native to India, the Far East or West Africa. In general, we know little about their domestication, despite the fact that they have constituted, and still constitute, the basis of food for millions of people around the world.

We know, for example, that red amber (azuki) and green amber (mungo) were introduced in Japan around 1,000 years before our era, but we do not know the time of their domestication. Apart from the cowpea , which was already consumed in Europe at the beginning of our era, legumes of the genus Vigna were only introduced in the West very recently, with waves of immigration from Asia and Africa . Furthermore, they never played an important role in our crops, unlike rice and soybeans, for example.

We know a little more about the cowpea, which would have been domesticated 5,000 or 6,000 years ago in Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia), at the same time as sorghum, an important cereal of this continent. Of course, the cowpea was consumed in the wild long before its domestication.

The cowpea mongette , a subspecies, was introduced at the beginning of our era by the Greeks of Marseille in what was still Gaul, from where it gradually spread throughout the rest of the country. Its use remains very frequent until the Renaissance, although medical texts of the Middle Ages accuse it of causing “terrible and untrue dreams”.

After the conquest, it will be replaced by the New World bean and its culture will only survive in rare regions of France: Vendée, Poitou, Charentes. It is still cultivated in Italy, Spain and especially in Portugal. It is also found in Arab countries, and in Brazil, it is one of the main local legumes.

It is believed to have been brought to America by Jamaica, around 1675, by black slave traders who brought large quantities to feed their tragic cargo. As it is well adapted to tropical climates and rich in nutrients, it quickly spread to the Antilles. In the XVIII th  century, there is grown everywhere. After entering the United States around 1700, its cultivation will spread to all the southern states, replacing peas, poorly adapted to high temperatures and dry soils. Even today, it plays an important role in feeding the populations of these regions.

Culinary uses

Choose well

More digestible
Traditionally, in Africa, soak the cowpea grains for a few hours, then rub them in the hands to remove the skin, less digestible than the heart. All the legumes in question here gain in digestibility if this treatment is applied to them. This is also why many of them are sold shelled and split.

You can find in Asian grocery stores, as well as in some supermarkets in mainland France, green pods of cowpea with long pods . They are also available in a tin can.

Most grocery stores sell young sprouts of Amberica (mung or green Amberia ) or “sprouted beans”. They should be very firm, crunchy, and the germ should be white.

The dry grains of the majority of the seven species described above are found in some western grocery stores or in ethnic markets. The black-eyed cowpea is often sold under its English name of cowpea .

Azuki flakes are found in France , but to our knowledge, not in North America.

Notes: the green amber (mung) and the red amber (azuki) are, with the lentils, the legumes that digest best.

All of the lentil recipes are suitable for ambériens and peas, as well as dishes made with their flour. In addition, we will not hesitate to interchange in the recipes the various grains presented in this sheet.

Culinary dishes

  • In Africa, the Thiébou Niébé is prepared by cooking the peas for about twenty minutes; then brown an onion and cubes of meat in oil, and add various vegetables (cassava, carrots, okra) and a good amount of water. Cook until vegetables are tender. These are then removed from the pan, along with a little sauce that is set aside, and are replaced by rice and semi-cooked peas. Cooking resumes until the rice is ready. We serve with the sauce.
  • Prepare a spread by mixing red mashed potatoes, grated ginger, lemon juice and tahini.
  • The green ambergrass is used to make Harusame vermicelli , a name which means “fine spring rain” because of their appearance when cooked. Carefully monitor the cooking, as they quickly fall apart.
  • We can germinate the ambient and the cowpeas. Choose whole grains rather than peeled and split grains. Eat the raw young shoots or sauté them for a few minutes.
  • The pudding red mung is prepared by cooking the beans and their adding a little sugar and starch arrowroot diluted in water. Return to the heat until the water is absorbed. Serve hot or cold, with a little coconut milk.
  • The Moyin-Moyin another pudding comes from the Congo cook peas after leaving them to soak overnight and stripped of their skin. Then crush them to obtain a thick puree. Gradually add water so that the puree is handy. Whisk with a few drops of oil. Mix together tomatoes, onion and hot pepper by finely chopping them, salt and pepper, and incorporate this preparation into the peas. The cooking is done in the oven (30 to 35 minutes) in a double boiler, in ramekins. Africans modify this recipe at will by adding to the basic vegetables a little meat (fresh, cooked or canned), fish or seafood (fresh, dried or smoked), carrots, peas, peppers, a hard-boiled egg, etc.
  • The fritters are a variation of this basic recipe. Instead of baking the mash in an oven in ramekins, they are made into patties which are fried in oil and served with a spicy sauce. The peas are also often cooked with corn (fresh, frozen or dried) until they disintegrate and form a thick puree.
  • In India, all legumes can be used to prepare a soup or mash  : cook them in water with turmeric; crush them and add tomatoes, fresh coriander, hot peppers and salt, then continue cooking for about fifteen minutes. Sauté onions apart with cumin, and add to soup. Serve over basmati rice. Countless variations are possible, changing the balance of spices (turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cardamom, coriander, garam masala, mustard seeds, assa-foetida, tamarind, hot peppers, lemon, etc.) serving with different vegetables. Note that many of these spices have carminative properties, which facilitate the digestion of legumes.
  • They can be cooked in a salad with chicken, thinly sliced ​​green onions and parsley. Garnish with dried cranberries and roasted peanuts, and drizzle with honey and mustard vinaigrette. They can also be cooked in water with potatoes, green onions and Indian spices. Serve hot with green vegetables.
  • The bread of Rajasthan is quite a complex recipe that is preparing one hand with green mung beans, split and cooked with spices in a large amount of water and, secondly, made with flour dumplings, salt and oil or clarified butter ( baflas ). Once formed, the dumplings are poached in the water of the atmosphere, then removed after 25 minutes. They are coated with butter, a slight depression is made in the center with the thumb, then they are baked in the oven until they start to crack and take on a nice brown color. The vegetables are drained, then fried for a few minutes in oil with onions. They are served on the dumplings with vegetables and a chutney.

Whichever recipe you use, you can roast the amber and cow peas dry for about ten minutes before cooking them in water. They will then take on a pleasant nutty flavor.

Organic gardening

Culture in the city
If you do not have a garden, you will cultivate the ambergrass and the peas in a tank. Climbing varieties will look great on a balcony or against a fence.

Although it is difficult, in temperate climates, to bring the plants of the genus Vigna to maturity (it takes 100 to 120 days without frost), they can be cultivated to consume them as snap or for their green grains . In addition, the leaves are eaten like spinach, a boon that only gardeners can take advantage of.

Preferably choose varieties indifferent to the photoperiod, these species being mostly adapted to the short days prevailing in winter in their country of origin.

It is particularly important to inoculate the seeds with the appropriate nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobacteria). Indeed, as the genus Vigna is absent from our local flora, the bacterial microflora which normally corresponds to it is also.

To avoid root rot problems, wait until the soil has warmed up well before sowing (around June 6 in southern Quebec). Sow the dwarf varieties, spacing them from 5 cm to 7 cm, and the climbing varieties from 20 cm to 22 cm.

Cultivate like the common bean, taking care that the soil is worked in depth to allow the full development of the taproot.

The pods of the long pod cowpea can easily reach 1 m in length, but for consumption, it is best to harvest them when they are about 30 cm.

Ecology and environment

The cowpea , the moth bean and Bambara can grow and spread in semi-arid environments where only a few centimeters of rain fall per year and where any other legume would die and give no yield. While providing food and medicine for humans, as well as fodder and feed for livestock, they make it possible to develop marginal lands, left to themselves because they are not rich enough to receive a crop. The leaves of the butterfly bean form a thick carpet which has the effect of reducing evaporation caused by the sun and erosion due to wind. Its roots sink deep to fetch water where it is found, often tens of meters deep. Like all other legumes, it fixes atmospheric nitrogen in the soil

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