A magic box of goodness2016 is the International Year of Pulses, and for good reason. Pulses have sustained human life over the centuries, providing much needed protein, but there's much more to them than that. Growing pulses is now a much more sustainable way of feeding the world. Pulses enhance soil fertility and reduce dependency on chemical fertilisers for a start, while improving soil structure, important for water retention, and improving organic matter. The fact that they can be stored for long periods without loss of nutrients is a bonus, and a lifesaver in many countries around the world. In the western world we have access to dozens of different beans, peas and lentils, all of which are extremely nutritious. It's like a magic box of coloured jewels that you can dip into to create a myriad of enticing textures, flavours and aromas. Apart from their high protein content – and read here about how to make it equal to the protein of meat – and all the minerals, the have a low GI rating, do not contain gluten, have zero cholesterol and are low in fat. I could bang on about them even more ... well, in fact I have as I think they deserve the spotlight shone their way. Pulses Try this scrumptious puy lentil salad with a sherry vinegar dressing and pine nuts, and check out some of the faves from the Shared Kitchen files, especially Ilaria's bunnuce burgers! And, if you want to cut back on sweet things, but still want a sweet taste, don't forget about maple syrup. Read about it here. Aucklanders are up for a treat on Sunday at the Festival Italiano 16. There'll be heaps of delicious food and all the fanfare of a typical Italian street festival. Might see you there!