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Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Bean is a common name for the large plant seeds used for human food or animal feed of several genra of the family "Fabaceae" (alternately called "leguminosae"). It originally referred to the seed of the broad or fava bean.  Native Americans often grew beans alongside corn and squash referring to the trio as the "Three Sisters".  The corn stalk acted as support for the beans.  In more recent times the so called "bush bean" has been developed which does not require support and has all its pods develop simultaneously rather than gradually.  This makes the "bush bean" more practical for commercial production.  

Dry beans come from both the Old World variety of broad beans (fava beans) and the New World varieties of kidney, black, cranberries (not to be confused with the fruit), pinto and navy/haricut beans.  Beans are a heliotropic plant , meaning that the leaves tilt throughout the day to face the sun.  At night they go into a folded "sleep" position.   Beans, of course, are members of the "legume" family, plants that contain several seeds in a pod and grow on bushes or vines.  

My first memories of beans were at my grandpa's store.  They were one of the items that was displayed on the outside stand.  They were in a bushel basket that had its bottom filled so that there was only a 2 inch deep area to fill with beans.   They were fava beans and I remember being told they were "good eating".   It's funny how that stays with me.  In later years in the supermarkets I did not see too many fresh beans.  They would have fresh black eyed peas  in a cellophane package around the New Year.   Most of the beans people buy and eat today are either canned or dried.

Beans are the world's most significant source of vegetable protein.   Beans also contain antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron.  Beans have significant amounts of fiber and soluble fiber with one cup providing between nine and thirteen grams of fiber.  Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Currently there are about 40,000 bean varieties, although only a fraction are mass produced for regular consumption.  The world's largest producers of beans are India, Brazil, Burma, Peoples Republic of China, and the U.S.

Here is a short list of commonly found in the supermarket beans with their typical uses:

  • Adzxuki beans: (also known as field peas or red oriental beans)  Used in soups, sweet bean paste, and Japanese and Chinese dishes.
  • Anasazi beans: (also known as Jacob's cattle beans)  Used in soups and Southwestern dishesand can be used in recipes that call for pinto beans.
  • Black beans: (also known as cowpeas)  Used in soups, stews, rice dishes and Latin American cuisine.
  • Chickpeas: (also known as garbanzo or ceci beans)  Used in casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup and Spanish and Indian dishes.
  • Edamame: (also known as green soybeans)  Used in snacks, salads, casseroles and rice dishes.
  • Favas beans: (also know as broiad or horse beans)  Used in stews and side dishes
  • Lentils: Used in soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes.
  • Lima beans: (also known as butter or Madagascar beans)  Used in succotash, casseroles, soups, and salads.
  • Kidney beans: (also called red kidney beans or white kidney beans)  Used in salads, stews, chili and rice dishes.
  • Soy nuts: (also known as roasted soybeans or soya beans)  Used for snacks or garnish for salads.

So... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:

Easy Pasta Fasul

2     cloves garlic, chopped
1/2  small yellow onion, chopped 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 can Cannellini beans (15.5 oz )
1 can Italian diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.
1/2 cup ditalini, cooked

In a hot pan put 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Add chopped garlic and onion.  Sprinke with salt and pepper.  Sautee' until soft, about 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse can of Cannellini beans.  Add to pan and stir for a couple of minutes  so the beans will pick up the garlic and onion flavor.  Add the can of tomatoes including liquid.  Stir and cook for a few minutes so as to heat throughout.  Add ditalini and stir.   Cook a couple more minutes to make sure it is heated throughout.   Serve hot and garnish with Parmesan cheese.