By Anna Goretzki

At best, pulses are still known today as a snack. It can also be used to cook well. (imago / Panthermedia / Fascinadora)

Drying instead of freezing: agricultural engineer Christina Henatsch wants to give this ancient technique of preserving vegetables a new reputation – for the sake of the climate. The first large kitchens and caterers are already experimenting with it.

“Now the water is completely gone,” says Christina Henatsch, leaning over a saucepan in her kitchen. “It was overcast. After five minutes, he was engrossed.”

The carrot slices simmer in the pan. “In five minutes you have Al Dente quality, which some people like. And after ten minutes you are completely soft.”

Henatsch is a market gardener in Gut Wulfsdorf near Hamburg, but the carrots simmering in the pot do not come fresh from the field. Instead, they were cut into pieces and dried. Henatsch tests the product: is the taste harmonious? How long should you cook carrots?

“It tastes completely different,” she says. “A little salt on it, a little butter on it, so of course the taste comes out better.”

It must taste good. But above all, the agricultural engineer is interested in energy savings and ultimately the climate, as she says outside in her flower garden. She wants to eventually replace frozen vegetables with pulses for consumers.

“The minus twenty freezers that run all the time! And that can be huge in large kitchens. Instead, you have a bag in the pantry. It’s light, you don’t have any weight, and it’s just as convenient, just as fast. “

An old cultural technique from before the refrigerator

The first tests were carried out with carrots, parsnips, parsley roots, leeks and beets. Solid seeds, i.e. varieties capable of reproducing in Demeter quality, which a large specialist company, Völpel GmbH, dried near Ingolstadt. Drying fruits and vegetables, also called drying, is an ancient cultural technique that Christina Henatsch wants to give a new reputation in times of climate change.

“Dried fruits are still known. We do not know any more in the case of vegetables. It was an old way to keep them and keep them. I want to see that we do that too. “Really bring it directly to people. So for quick cooking, for big kitchens that need to supplement, but also for people who don’t have time to cook.”

Christina Henatsch sees her pulses primarily as a contribution to better climate protection. (Deutschlandradio / Anna Goretzki)

Commercial kitchens and caterers are currently testing pulses. This is also the case for the cafeteria of the Free Waldorf School in Berlin-Mitte, run by Michelin-starred chef Bettina Zehner:

“The quality of the pulses was very high. We first tested with the mouth, with the nose, which is very sensory ”, specifies Zehner. “These were the normal varieties, ie parsnips, parsley root, carrots, in red and normal, beets. It’s actually a vegetable that is available anyway. Freshly preserved. in winter as a storage vegetable, also seed proof, now available from wholesalers or available from our farmers. ”

The cafeteria cooks mainly on a seasonal basis, that is, with fresh vegetables available according to the season. Bettina Zehner would therefore prefer other vegetables than dry products for her school cooking: tomatoes, peppers, beans.

Storage does not consume any energy

In other cafeterias, much more frozen food is used than here. Pulses could very well play a role in saving CO2, believes ecotrophologist Melanie Speck. She conducts research at the Wuppertal Institute, an international think tank for research on sustainable development, sustainable production and consumption.

In her analysis, she assumes that the same amount of energy must be spent on delivering, cleaning, chopping and then, as appropriate, freezing or drying vegetables:

“The main advantage that we have now been able to derive compared to the relationship between frozen vegetables and pulses is, of course, that after this processing step, we no longer need to use any more energy to guarantee the frozen storage and freezing. This means that there is no energy required during transport, there is no energy required for storage in the food retail trade, and no energy for storage at consumers. must then be taken into account. “

With this, she confirms the hypothesis of market gardener Christina Henatsch that pulses are more climate-friendly than frozen foods. However, she points out that simply avoiding frozen foods will do little to help the climate. It is really important for the climate to avoid meat and animal products.

“Because that’s where we have the biggest footprints. If we took this into account and reduced diets so that dairy products are used exceptionally and meat is only used very irregularly, i.e. less than one times a week, then you can read up on Steps in the process to think about. What I find much more interesting is the shelf life and the shelf life. “

Due to their low weight, pulses are also suitable for camping holidays. (Deutschlandradio / Anna Goretzki)

Christina Henatsch and her colleagues, the Verein Forschungsring and the Real Food Foundation, want the life cycle assessment to be calculated by an independent scientist. They have a lot of ideas for using pulses: for example in ground form as a basis for baby food. Plus, since 90 percent of its moisture has been removed, the vegetables are suitable for hiking and camping. It is light, can be stored for a long time and can be prepared quickly.

Crispy parsnips on vanilla curd

Michelin-starred chef Bettina Zehner and her colleagues have already experimented extensively with vegetables:

“We make a paste of vegetable broth to replace broth. We’ve now put some of those dried veg in there and it’s a good stimulant. We liked that too. – and put under the lentil salad. We also sprinkled parsnips on a vanilla cottage cheese mixed with chocolate. “

Christina Henatsch and her colleagues are now working on branding and packaging their dried vegetables so that they are available in the spring for climate-conscious large kitchens and end consumers.