Farmers on the Palouse are receiving national recognition for the quality of their legumes and environmentally friendly growing practices.

Several products from the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative were winners in the Good Food Foundation’s 2020 Good Food Awards in the grains category. Winning products from the co-op, announced in January, were Pardina brown lentils, Madeline French green lentils and Pedrosillano garbanzo beans.

Spokeswoman Kim Davidson said the co-op has about 750 members within a 60-mile radius of Pullman and Moscow. Most work on multigeneration family farms. Their legumes are sold at Huckleberry’s, Moscow Food Co-op and restaurants throughout the region.

Davidson said this is the first year there was a grains category in the Good Food Foundation’s 10 years of existence.

“This is our first opportunity to enter, and we were thrilled we are the finalist,” she said.

Other categories include beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, cider, coffee, fish and spirits.

Davidson said the co-op submitted its products for a blind tasting that came with cooking instructions. The Good Food Foundation also required the co-op to answer an in-depth questionnaire that explored the farmers’ growing practices.

The Good Food Awards recognize products that promote soil health, sustainable practices, are free of pesticides and herbicides, and do not use genetically modified ingredients.

Davidson said Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative growers use sustainable practices, such as rotating crops and no-till practices. She said pesticides and herbicides are often not needed because legumes provide nitrogen for the soil and produce acid that naturally keep bugs away.

The goal behind entering this contest is to raise the profile of legumes and introduce more people to co-op products, she said. While people are generally familiar with garbanzo beans, many people, even on the Palouse, do not know much about lentils.

“Lentils are more of a mystery to people in general,” said Davidson, who pointed out the co-op sponsors the National Lentil Festival in Pullman every year.

Legumes have many favorable qualities, she said, including that they are cheap, easy to cook and do not need to be presoaked if they are fresh. And, local legumes come from healthy soil, thanks to environmentally friendly farming practices.

“Healthy food starts with healthy soil,” Davidson said.

Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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