Background

The legumes are members of rhc bean family, the Fabaceae. This family is a source of many edible seeds, including die various types of peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts. It is also well represented by a number of important forage crops—for instance, clover, vetch, and alfalfa—as well as bv trees such as black and honey locusts

which arc valued in landscaping and for lumber.

Legumes are important food sources because their seeds arc often rich in both protein and oil. Legumes have the highest protein content of any plant, and the quality of the protein approximates that of meat and orhcr animal products. For this reason, edible legumes arc often nicknamed "poor mail's meat" because thev afford the impoverished a source of inexpensive and readily abun dant protein of a quantity and quality that is usually beyond their means.

Leguminous seeds are often excellent sources of oil as well. These oils may be used for cooking or in the production of soap, paints and varnishes, plastics, biofucls, and a multitude of other commodities.

Legumes arc often planted to improve soil fertility. Many have an intimate relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and thus play a significant role in die biogco-chcmical cycling of nitrogen. Significandy, the nitrogen-fixing bacrcria housed in nodules within the roots of a legume can alter nonusablc nitrogen gas into a form that (lie legume and orhcr plants can absorb. Since nitrogen atoms are essential to the manufacture of amino acids and protein, the high protein content of legumes and dicir soil enrichment properties can be explained by the prcscncc of these bacteria within their roots.

In this lab, you will use a hands-on approach to learn the properties and applications of legumes.

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