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Lupine: Waiting for the breakthrough


In October 1918, the Association for Applied Botany in Hamburg hosted an unusual banquet. Served on tablecloths made of lupine fiber: lupine soup, lupine beef steak fried in lupine oil followed by lupine cheese and a strong lupine schnapps at the end. This heavy lupine-heavy menu was a subtle hint to the politicians that the pretty yellow, white and blue flowering plant has enormous potential. But the post-war shortage of food and raw materials was resolved so quickly that nothing came of the large-scale cultivation in Germany that the botanists had hoped for.

The bean-like seeds of the lupine have absolute star qualities that should be enough for the big breakthrough. With 35 percent and more, its protein content almost reaches that of soybeans, it contains up to 10 percent oil and, in addition, considerable amounts of vitamins A1, B1 and B2. Lupine protein can even improve cholesterol levels, at least if you eat it in large quantities. It is also easy to care for in cultivation. It collects the required nitrogen from the air and grows easily on light sandy soils, even in cool climates.

The fact that the lupine stands out more as a pretty flower on freeway entrances than through large-scale cultivation has to do with some special properties that are not well received by farmers. The yields are usually quite modest and are very fluctuating. Even more serious is their susceptibility to the so-called focal spot disease, which can halve the already modest yields. Nevertheless, agricultural scientists continue to tinker with the career of the undemanding legume.
In the meantime, it has been possible to grow sweet lupins without bitter substances, which previously had to be removed using complex processes. The fight against focal spot disease was also successful, at least for the blue lupine there are now resistant varieties. This is also the reason why blue lupins are cultivated almost exclusively today.

Developments in the food industry are also promising. The high-quality protein is ideal as a meat substitute, for example for Viennese sausages, liver sausage or Lyoner and could theoretically also replace soy as the basis for tofu. Even a lupine ice cream made it into the freezers of German supermarkets. For other products, however, consumers are still waiting for strong demand, although experts certify that the protein has an excellent taste.

But obviously something has got going in recent years. After decades of declining acreage, farmers have been using lupine again for two years, especially in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. In the past year alone, the acreage increased by almost 40 percent compared to 2014 to around 30,000 hectares. That's not much compared to wheat or corn, but maybe the beginning of the big breakthrough of lupine. She deserved it. J├╝rgen Beckhoff, aid

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