Pulses: origins & life

Origins of Leguminous Species

The Neolithic Revolution, which took place in several separate places between 11,000 and 3,000 years ago, gave birth to agriculture. Animals were domesticated and a number of plant species were cultivated which enabled early man to give up his nomadic 'hunting and gathering' existence in favour of permanent settlements. These new sedentary societies were able to produce food surpluses which are one of the basic building blocks of 'civilisation'.

Neolithic Origins

Evolutionary Hotspots

The 'Fertile Crescent' (nick-named the Cradle of Civilization) c. 11,000 years ago

From the top of the Persian Gulf, arching North West up the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, West to the Mediterranean, and then South to the top of the Red Sea and the Nile valley. Neolithic 'founder' crops: emmer wheat, einkorn, barley, flax, chickpea (Cicer Arietinum), peas (Pisum Sativum), lentil (Lens Culinaris) and bitter vetch. Later, about 5,000 years ago, the faba bean (Vicia Faba).

Andean Highlands (from Northern Chile to central Peru, including West Bolivia) c. 6-5,000 years ago

'Founder' crops: potatoes, manioc, lima (Phaseolus Lunatis) and scarlet runner (Phaseolus Coccineus).

Mesoamerica (from Middle Mexico, through Central America to Costa Rica) c. 5-4,000 years ago

'Founder' crops: corn, common kidney beans (Phaseolus Vulgaris), squash and chilli.

Sub-Saharan West Africa (from Senegal to Chad) c. 4-3,000 years ago

'Founder' crops: pearl millet, cowpeas (Vigna Unguiculata).

South Eastern India (from Chennai to Madurai) c. 4-3,000 years ago

'Founder' crops: mung (Vigna Radiata) and urid beans, together with pigeon peas (Cajanus Cajan).

Since these early days, migration, exploration, colonisation, slavery and trade have ensured that all these pulse species are now cultivated in many different parts of the temperate globe.

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Maviga A-Z

Maviga Produce

A: Adzuki, Alaska, Alubia, Alubita, Anasazi, Appaloosa

B: Bayo, Beluga, Benita, Blacks, Black Gram, Baysheke, Barbunia, Blanco Sinaloa, Blackeye, Benui, Bolita, Boomer, Borlotti, Broomcorn, Browneye, Baby Lima, Broad, Burkina Faso Sesame, Butter Beans

C: Cali, Carioca, Calypso, Canary seed, Canarios, Cannellini, Caupi, Chickpea, Chana Dal, Chinese Lentils, Cowpea, Cranberry, Crimson, CSB+

D: Dark Red Kidney, Dark Speckled Lentil, Dermason, Desi, Digger, Dun, Dutch Brown

E: Eston, Egyptian Golden Sesame

F: Faba, Flageolet, Footballs (whole decorticated lentils), Fuego, Fury

G: Garbanzo, Gedaref, Ginger, Gonder, Green Baby Lima, Green Mung, Great Northern, Green Peas, Green Split Peas

H: Hamburg, Hallados, Haricot, Hibiscus, Horoz, Humera Sesame, Hulled Sesame

I: Indian Sesame, Indian Kabuli

J: Japanese Small White, Jalo

K: Kabuli, Kaspa

L: Laird, Large Lima, Large White Kidney, Light Red Kidney, Light Speckled Kidney, Linseed, Lupin

M: Maize, Maize Meal, Mali Sesame, Marrowfats, Maple, Mixed Millet, Millet Spray, Mayocoba, Medium White Kidney, Mixed Beans

N: Navy, Niger Seed, Niebe Beans

O: Ovale, Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye)

P: Pallares, Panicum, Pardina, Plate, Peabean, Petit Mil, Pigeon Pea, Pink, Pinto, Popcorn, Purple Speckled Kidney, Puy

Q: Qinghai Broad Beans

R: Raw Cashew, Red Speckled Kidney, Red Lentils, Red Split Lentils, Red Millet, Rice, Richlea, Rosecoco

S: Sesame, Sira, Sugar, Small White, Small Sieve, Solara, Sorghum, Soya, Split Peas, Split Chickpeas, Split Faba, Sunflower

T: Taraba, Tortola

U: Ukrainian Whole Yellow Peas, Ukrainian Millets, Urid, Ugandan Sesame, Ugandan Mixed Beans

V: Victor

W: Wheat, Wheat Flour, Wizard, Wollega

X: Xinjiang Light Speckled Kidney Beans (Round)

Y: Yellow Maize, Yellow Gram, Yellow Millet, Yellow Pea, Yellow Split Peas

Z: Zea Mays (Popcorn)

Cicer Arietinum (chickpeas)

2 main types

KABULI - (meaning 'from Kabul' in Hindi. Probably arrived in India from the Eastern Mediterranean via Kabul).
Skin colour from light brown to almost white, size 7-13mm.
Cream coloured cotyledon.
AKA Garbanzo beans, Spaniola chickpeas, Café, Kabuli chana, Safed (white) chana.
Ingredient for: stews, casseroles, tagines, hummus, falafel, snacks.
Exportable surpluses: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Russia, Turkey, USA.

DESI - (meaning 'native' in Hindi).
Skin colour mid brown to almost black, size 4-6mm.
Yellow coloured cotyledon.
AKA Bengal gram, Yellow gram, Kala chana, Tyson.
Ingredients for: curries, chana dahl, besan (desi chickpea flour).
Exportable surpluses: Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Tanzania

Orator, Philosopher, Chickpea!

Plutarch on The Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106BC-43BC

'The first member of the family who was surnamed Cicero seems to have been worthy of note, and for that reason his posterity (successors) did not reject the surname, but were fond of it, although many made it a matter of raillery (mockery). For "cicer" is the Latin name for chick-pea, and this ancestor of Cicero, as it would seem, had a faint dent in the end of his nose like the cleft of a chick-pea, from which he acquired his surname. Cicero himself, however, whose Life I now write, when he first entered public life and stood for office and his friends thought he ought to drop or change the name, is said to have replied with spirit that he would strive to make the name of Cicero more illustrious than such names as Scaurus (swollen ankle) or Catulus (puppy). Moreover, when he was quaestor (a civil servant) in Sicily and was dedicating to the gods a piece of silver plate, he had his first two names inscribed thereon, the Marcus and the Tullius, but instead of the third, by way of jest, he ordered the artificer to engrave a chick-pea in due sequence. This, then, is what is told about his name.'

'Ut sementem feceris, ita metes' ('As you sow, so shall you reap') Cicero, 55BC

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Vicia Faba (Faba or Fava beans)

2 main types

FABA – from the Latin 'faba' meaning bean, also known as 'fava' from the Italian.
Skin colour from very light brown to pale green. Colour darkens to a reddish brown with age. Size 8-15mm in length.
Pale yellowish-beige coloured cotyledon.
Varieties: Fuego, Fiesta, Fury, (spring sewn) Wizard, Sultan (winter sewn).
Ingredients for: Ful Medames, Falafel, soups and salads.
Exportable surpluses: Australia, Canada, France, UK.

BROAD BEAN - name by description
Skin colour from very light brown to pale green. Size 15-30mm in length.
Pale green coloured cotyledon.
(Like some green peas, many field varieties of broad beans are now grown only for fresh and freezing consumption.)
Ingredients for: stews, soup, salads, side vegetable.
Exportable surpluses: Australia, China.

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PHASEOLUS VULGARIS (Common kidney bean)

'Think of the epitome of bean, the bean that embodies absolute beanity and it will almost certainly be a variety of the single species, Phaseolus Vulgaris, the common bean. This species has done a better job than perhaps any other plant at insinuating itself around the globe in the place of indigenous species. Moreover, these beans come in so many shapes and colors, are so infinitely adaptable and versatile that we rarely think of them as manifestations of a single ancestral progenitor. In many respects, Phaseolus Vulgaris is most like our own species - spread around the globe in every imaginable climate. The white navy bean, mottled pinto bean, red kidney bean, black bean, green flageolet, as well as fresh green beans or string beans, haricots and so forth are all the same species. They are all quite different characters too, some homespun and honest, others rugged as the untamed West, others boisterous and flamboyant.'

from 'Beans: A History' by Ken Albala 2007

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Lens Culinaris (lentils)
(from the Latin word lenticula)

2 main types

GREEN lentils
Skin colour green to grayish brown, size 4-8mm
Yellow cotyledon
Main varieties: Laird, Eston, Richlea, Regular, Pardina, Chinese, French Green (Puy), Boomer.
Ingredients for: stews, soups, salads, curries and casseroles.
Exportable surpluses: Australia, Argentina, Canada, China, USA.

RED lentils
Skin colour mid to dark brown, size 2-4mm
Orange/reddish cotyledon
Main varieties: Crimson, Digger, Indian, Nipper, Nugget, Robin, Turkish.
Ingredients (mainly consumed split and de-corticated) for: soups, curries, stews.
Exportable surpluses: Australia, Canada, Turkey.

Esau sore over high price paid for lentils

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, 'Quick, let me have some of that red (lentil) stew! I'm famished!' Jacob replied, 'First sell me your birthright.' 'Look, I am about to die,' Esau said. 'What good is the birthright to me?' But Jacob said, 'Swear to me first.' So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.

Genesis 25:29-34 (New International Version 1984)

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Pisum Sativum (peas)
(from the Latin word 'pisum'
- the latinisation of the Greek 'pison')

2 main types

Skin colour light to darkish green, size 4-7mm
Green cotyledon
Ingredients for: soups, stews, curries, casseroles, flours and snack foods.
Exportable surpluses: Canada, USA, Argentina, UK

Skin colour light to extra ‘good’ green, size 6-8mm
Green cotyledon
Exportable surpluses: Canada, New Zealand, UK


Gregor Mendel, a farmer's son born in 1822, enrolled as a monk with the Augustinian Order of St. Thomas in Brno, Moravia (now the Czech Republic), to escape poverty and get an education. The abbot sent him to The University of Vienna but Mendel failed to obtain a teaching diploma (his supervisor wrote that he 'lacks insight and the requisite clarity of knowledge').

Mendel returned to the monastery and devoted the next seven years to understanding 'inheritance' in pea plants – about 29,000 of them! He noticed that when a pea plant with a particular characteristic (e.g. long stem) was crossed with a pea plant possessing the opposite characteristic (short stem), the result was not something in between, but plants that were all long stemmed. When these hybrid plants were then crossed with each other (or themselves), one type dominated the other; there were three times as many offspring that were long stemmed as were short stemmed. His genius was to attribute this 3:1 ratio to 'dominant' and 'recessive' particles in the plants which we now refer to as genes.

His work was published in 1866, but was seen mainly as a study in hybridisation. It was not until the early 1900s, (Mendel died in 1884) that his work was re-discovered and heralded as the founding study in genetic

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(sesame, sim sim)

Maviga is a leading originator of sesame seed throughout Africa. The seeds are purchased directly from growers in all of the production areas. 'As grown' goods are delivered to Maviga operated facilities where they are processed and packed for export to Europe, the Middle and Far East. At destination, the seeds are either hulled (for the bakery, Tahini or Halvah industries) or crushed for oil.

Sesame seeds are used as a bakery topping all over the world; a Big Mac bun is covered with approximately 420 hulled seeds.
Tahini, the 'mayonnaise of the Middle East', is used as a key ingredient in many dishes, including hummus.
Sesame seed oil is used in Japanese 'tempura' cooking (deep fried, battered fish and vegetables).
In China, sesame oil is a popular 'dressing' on noodles.

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What Maviga Does

EXW (Ex Farm)
Maviga buys goods Ex Farm, 'as grown' or 'farmer dressed' on a pre-harvest contract or spot basis, post harvest.


Goods are delivered to a Maviga owned or contracted, pulse cleaning facility where manual, mechanical and electronic processes are used to sort, select and size the goods.


EXW (Ex Processing Plant)
Processed goods are loaded either in bags or in bulk into pre-inspected, food grade containers. Maviga also originates goods ready processed, Ex Works.


Containers are delivered to the container terminal at the export port where they are loaded onto a vessel. Maviga undertakes all export formalities and prepares documentation necessary for import at destination market.


Containers are discharged at import port, where they are loaded onto trucks for onward delivery to buyer's warehouse. Shipping documents are presented to the buyer through his bank. Buyer arranges clearance.


Container or goods are delivered to a pre-nominated place; normally the buyer's warehouse. The buyer takes care of clearance formalities; Maviga takes care of inland delivery to buyer's warehouse.


Maviga takes care of all the import formalities and pays for duty, if applicable. Goods are delivered to buyers warehouse and discharged into buyers warehouse.

Fighting famine with food

MAVIGA is a regular supplier of dried pulses and Corn Soya Blend Plus (CSB+) to all of the major Governmental Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that deliver food aid to peoples in need all over the world. This is all tender business, so when MAVIGA is the supplier, it is because they have offered the required goods at the cheapest price.

'Almost one billion people suffer from chronic hunger worldwide and more than 3.5 million children die from undernutrition each year.'

US Aid Website

"In emergencies or refugee situations, people may be totally dependent on WFP food. In this case, the key components of the WFP food basket are: a staple such as wheat flour or rice; lentils, chickpeas or other pulses; vegetable oil (fortified with vitamin A and D); sugar; and iodized salt. Often these are complemented with special blended foods, such as Corn Soya Blend, that have been fortified with important micronutrients."

World Food Program (WFP) Website, 2012

"Chronic child malnutrition is an ongoing, permanent emergency affecting 170 million children. It occurs on an even greater scale than the devastating emergency food crises that follow crop failure, climate disaster or conflict."

Save The Children Fund Special Report, February 2012.

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Bean's Talk


Date of birth: 29 September 1980

Profession: Legumeologist and editor of The Healthier Pulse

Education: BSc Botany (First Class), University of Fort William, Scotland

Interests: promoting the growth and consumption of pulses worldwide; travel; cooking and dining; rugby

Jack is Maviga's roving factfinder, ambassador, troubleshooter and spokesman.

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Pulses - the right stuff

Beans, Beans, good for the heart!

We all know that heart disease is a big killer in the developed world. What a lot of people don't know is that the regular consumption of pulses can lead to reduced 'serum cholesterol' and 'triglycerides', two nasty, almost unpronounceable things that increase the risk of developing heart disease. Pulses are extremely low in fat and sodium, contain no cholesterol and are virtually free of saturated fatty acids. So, that old school yard rhyme which starts 'beans, beans, good for the heart', is as true in its first line, as it is in its second!

The Healthier Pulse, CICILS Edition

Fibre high & GI low, pulses are the way to go!

Pulses are rich in dietary fibre, including soluble fibre which can slow the absorption of lipids and lower blood cholesterol. They also have a low glycemic index (GI) which is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.
Pulse Canada website www.pulsecanada.com

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Pulses in Film, Literature & Art

Second Carrier: "Peas and beans are as dank here as a dog."

Berowne: "This fellow pecks up wit, as pigeons peas."

Bottom (as an ass): "I had rather have a handful or two of dried pease."

The figurehead from Lady Maviga, an imagined merchant clipper from c.1850. Carved by Norman Gaches.

The figurehead from Lady Maviga is carved from Canadian Yellow Pine planks. Her long dark hair is decorated with a garland of sweet pea flowers and the company's distinctive green 'V' is incorporated in her skirt. The Maviga blue scroll fiddleheads are embellished with gold bean flowers, plump pods and leaves.

Rick:"I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Here's looking at you, kid."

'Mangiafagioli' (The Beaneater) was painted by the Italian Baroque artist Annibale Carracci in the mid-1580s. What makes this painting captivating is the 'moment' the artist has chosen to depict. He has captured both a real and transient moment, where the peasant is just raising a spoonful of beans to his mouth, only to stop, seemingly surprised, by the 'intrusion' of the viewer. The art historian David Posner described the composition as a 'snapshot' effect which was unprecedented in Western art. It is also the first time a bowl of beans (which appear to be some variety of cowpea) has taken centre stage in an important work of art. The dirty finger nails, torn hat and simple dwelling leave us in no doubt that this is an early interpretation of a poor man and his protein!

'Mangiafagioli' (The Beaneater) was painted by the Italian Baroque artist Annibale Carracci in the mid-1580s. What makes this painting captivating is the 'moment' the artist has chosen to depict. He has captured both a real and transient moment, where the peasant is just raising a spoonful of beans to his mouth, only to stop, seemingly surprised, by the 'intrusion' of the viewer. The art historian David Posner described the composition as a 'snapshot' effect which was unprecedented in Western art. It is also the first time a bowl of beans (which appear to be some variety of cowpea) has taken centre stage in an important work of art. The dirty finger nails, torn hat and simple dwelling leave us in no doubt that this is an early interpretation of a poor man and his protein!

The Bean King, painted by Jacob Jordaens c.1640. Traditionally, 6 January was the day employers or landowners treated their staff to a feast and free alcohol (that's where 'a beano' comes from). This feast would include a fruit cake into which one dry faba bean was folded. Whoever got the slice of cake with the bean in it became the 'Bean King' or 'Lord of Misrule' for the day. (Victorians changed this to a sixpenny piece in the Christmas pudding - a tradition that still lives on in some households today).

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Playful Pulses

An Old English Riddle
What are we?

Made famous by a Jack and good to grow,
Producing much more you can eat or sow!
Spilling us means you are telling the truth;
We generate a wind that is quite uncouth!
Prefixed 'old' we are a friend or mate,
On buttered toast, we are love or hate!
You are 'full' of us when in good health,
A 'counter' of us all, measures wealth!
Packed in packets, or canned in a can,
We provide protein to the poorer man!
It could not be easier, as you can see,
To answer the question; What are we?
Anonymous, c. 1955

Abapa ('The Good Stone') Rules of Oware

Oware is an abstract strategy game and is one of the Mancala family of 'sowing' games played throughout Africa and the Caribbean. It has been played for almost as long as people have been eating the beans that are so often used as the 'seeds' in the game.

1. Four seeds are placed in each 'house' on a board that is made up of 2 rows of 6 houses making 12 in total (as in the picture below). The row of 6 houses in front of each player is his 'territory'. At the start of the game, there are 48 seeds in total.

2. The object of the game is to capture as many seeds as possible. The first player to capture 25 seeds or more wins. If each player captures 24 seeds, the game is a draw.

3. Seeds are captured by making 2s and 3s with one's last seed on your opponent's side. You decide who starts with the toss of a coin (if a second game is played, the winner of the first game starts).

4. The starter scoops up all 4 seeds from any one house in his territory and sows them, one by one, in an anti-clockwise direction, in each house to the right of the scooped house. It is then his opponent's turn, and he does likewise.

5. If a player scoops from a house that has more than 11 seeds in it, he does not place a seed into that (scooped) house, but into the one to the right of it.

6. If the last seed that you sow makes the total in one of your opponent's houses 2 or 3, you 'capture' those seeds and take them off the board. If the preceding house (or houses) on your opponents side has 2 or 3 seeds in it (them), you also capture those seeds up to a maximum of 5 houses. In the event you are able to capture from all 6 of your opponent's houses, you forfeit capturing any seeds as this would leave your opponent without any seeds to play.

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Maviga belongs to:

Maviga is fully licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission

Maviga gives to:

In several locations, Maviga supports local youth sports teams or clubs with equipment and/or branded sportswear.

Maviga is an annual supporter of Shakespeare's Globe Education on Bankside, London. This is a unique centre for students of all ages, backgrounds and cultures to explore Shakespeare's work in the theatre for which he was writing.

The Vanessa Grant Trust is a charity founded by the late Will Thrupp (co-founder of Maviga) which operates in Rongai, Kenya. The Trust funds a collection of schools for all ages of children, including those with mental and/or physical disabilities.

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Notes on a company website

MAVIGA began in London in the latter part of the last century. It is now a leading international player in the origination of all varieties of dried edible pulses and other special crops. MAVIGA sources produce from over 25 origins to over 65 markets around the world.

"In a new age of global 'Economic Darwinism' only the 'fittest' and most 'adaptable' businesses in their sectors will survive. MAVIGA succeeds in being one of them."
Jack Bean, Editor, The Healthier Pulse 2014