Leg-yoom. Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Practice saying it a few times – good for the mouth and tongue muscles. Leg-yoom. Leg-yoom. Leg-yoom. That’s your pronunciation guide for a legume.
This week’s blog photo shows a purple-hulled pea, which is a legume and a cousin of black-eyed peas. When it’s 100 degrees of shimmering heat in August, those plants just keep climbing and blooming. So far this year, 10 seeds in a self-watering container have produced about 1 pound of peas for the New Year’s feast. But even if they didn’t produce much, they’re fun to grow. They inspire admiration for their pluckiness. Their big leaves provide shade for the wasps that haunt the yellow blossoms, ensuring those pea pods end up fat with succulent peas. And, it’s easy to find the pods, ripening to deep burgundy in the heat.
I was reminded of legumes this week
when I started opening the dried seed pods of the bluebonnets collected from the flower beds this spring. Generally they go to seed on their own, but the pods were scooped up out of the spring flooding and stored to dry inside. As I started opening the seed pods, many of them would spring open by themselves, the two halves of the pod twisting to fling out the fat ochre-colored seeds.
This twist-and-throw gesture recalled another legume, the Anacacho orchid tree and its habit of spitting seeds in the heat, mentioned in this earlier post. Last week, the heat tapped the tree on the shoulder and said, "Isn't it time to launch those pods?" Small seeds rained all over the walkway and flowerbed.
Legumes are the third largest family of flowering plants.
I wrote a bit in another post about the naming of plants and where “family” fits into the organizing structure called a taxonomy that botanists use to make sense of the many plants in the world. The seedpod of these plants is what’s called the legume. This great website put together by Wayne P. Armstrong at California’s Palomar College will guide your path in learning more about legumes atalong with some gorgeous flower photos from tropical species of this family.
In the plant world, one important value of legumes is fertilizing. These plants have nodules on their roots containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria can turn inert nitrogen into ammonia, then into nitrates and nitrites that build soil fertility.
In Texas, you may be familiar with bluebonnets and with a number of trees that are legumes - redbud, mesquite, orchid tree, mimosa, huisache, and Texas mountain laurel.
But you only have to look at your dinner plate to find legumes.
In addition to those purple-hull peas, think of green beans, green peas, snap peas, snow peas, kidney beans, soybeans, black beans, and even peanuts. All of them are chemists doing amazing work underground. Makes you want to be a cheerleader, doesn’t it. Give us an L – give us an E – give us a G, and let’s all shout Leg-yoom!