Legumes are plants with seed pods that are split into two halves. Seeds from legumes are edible and include foods such as beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, and others from the legume family. The two types of legumes are mature and immature legumes, according to Dietriffic.com. While mature legumes are nutritious, often used by vegetarians as protein substitutes for dietary animal protein, immature legumes are those undeveloped legumes harvested before maturing.
Lima bean plants thrive in well-drained, loamy soil that's rich with organic matter for developing strong, extensive roots. To reduce root damage caused from root rot disease, Grow Quest recommends rotating crops. Fields with a history of white mold problems should be avoided. A soil should have a pH of least 6.5. Plant lima bean plants in moist soil, but wait to irrigate until they're established. Water lighter soils more, but use less water for each application. Lima beans can be used in dishes such as casseroles or in salads.
Lentils originated in the Near East more than 8,500 years ago, according to Purdue University Horticulture. They're a grain legume that does best when grown in drier climates. These plants are annuals that grow semi-erect with compound leaves and produce flowers that are white, pale blue or lilac. Flowering starts on the plant's lower branches and then, eventually, moves up the plant, as it continues growing until it's ready for harvesting. Individual flowers each produce pods containing seeds. Lentils are often used in stews, soups, casseroles and salads. They can be hard to cook, as lentils have a hard seed coat as a result dry growing conditions.
Cowpea plants grow in dry, hot conditions. These legumes have an ability to form a deep tap root which allows the plant to be drought-tolerant. Although they can grow in dry conditions, cowpea plants don't tolerant wet conditions and soils that fail to drain properly. While some cowpea varieties are bushy and erect, others grow as vines. Seeds germinate rapidly in soils that are more than 65 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Purdue University Horticulture website article published by Jefferson Institute, entitled, "Cowpea". Black-eyed peas, which are the most widely grown variety of cowpeas in the United States, are smooth-texture, oval-sized and creamed-colored beans with a black dot. Their sharp flavor makes them tasty when served in rice dishes or eaten as a side dish.
Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are round, medium-sized, beige-colored beans with a firm texture and nutty flavor. They are often used in salads, soups and Italian dishes. They're also a popular food in the Middle Eastern dishes, such as falafel and hummus, notes the Center for Young Women's Health.