Hello my dear readers,
Last day of September is here, another month has passed by and new opportunities are coming.
Are you ready to discover another of our wonderful foods? Today join me and let’s discover the beans.
Beans, like many other legumes, represent one of the most consumed foods in the world and among the different civilizations there has always been their symbolic classification.
In ancient times, the bean was considered a symbol of immortality due to its prerogative of regaining freshness with the simple immersion in water.
In ancient Egypt, the “Dolichos” (eye beans) was the ritual food of the priests but among the Romans they were consumed by the people and Virgil called them “vilem phaseulum” because they were too common and therefore unworthy of illustrious families.
Considered legumes of very insignificant food value, especially during the Middle Ages, the beans became a Christian symbol of continence and humility, and were kept away from the tables of the wealthier people who preferred to eat meat.
The beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, are one of the most important leguminous plants, originating from Peru.
After Christopher Columbus discovered them on his second trip to Cuba, the Spaniards and Portuguese introduced them to Europe in the 16th century. Not that at the time the bean was unknown, the variety known in Europe was Vigna sinensis, of African and Asian origin, better known as eye beans, but the “Phaseolus vulgaris” conquered the old continent very quickly thanks to its tender skin, its sweet taste and its greater productivity.
Today, in certain Mexican markets, you can buy up to 25 different varieties of beans.
The bean plant is an annual climber that belongs to the order of legumes and to the Papillonaceae family. The edible part of the plants are its seeds (beans) but there are also varieties such as green beans and jackdaws, which have also edible pods.
The bean plant can be dwarf or climbing, the dwarf variety is more precocious, therefore suitable for a fast rotation, which allows more harvest. For this reason it is often preferred in our vegetable garden, where we can free up space quickly.
The bean plant loves warm and temperate climates, it is sown in areas that are well exposed to the sun. The ideal soil should be soft, medium-textured, with a pH of around 5. This plant, however, adapts very well to various types of soil, even if it does not like those too sandy or with too much clay.
It should be sown in spring, however, they can be sown throughout the summer, with an autumn harvest. If it is sown late, it is better to put the kidney beans, which have a faster cycle. The bean is sown by placing a seed every 3-4 centimeters, on rows at a distance of 50 cm.
You can soak the seed 12 hours before planting it to speed it up, this anticipates by 2-3 days and reduces the hardening of the soil, otherwise the seed takes about 7 days to emerge if the temperature is above 14 degrees, the grow is faster if the temperature is around 20 degrees. On the other hand, the cold weather can block the grow by causing the seed to rot.
For the climbing species, remember to put the adequate support.
The beans can also be kept in pots on the balcony but you must have a large enough container and be constant in watering the plant.
As for the timing, the beans are ready to harvest after 80 – 120 days from sowing.
The beans are harvested ripe, with a completely colored pod that tends to wither, unlike the eat-away beans that are instead green and tender.
Every year, around 18 million tons of beans from around 300 different species are produced worldwide.
Today, more than 500 varieties of beans are available on the market, direct descendants of the common bean, which can be classified into two large macro-families: cannellini beans and borlotti beans.
Cannellini beans – generally smaller than borlotti – are characterized by a more delicate pulp and a finer peel. They can be white, pale yellow or pale pink.
The borlotti have a more floury pulp and a thicker peel, with a striped color.
The South American varieties Lima (large, white and flat), black beans and black eye beans are very well known too.
Some varieties are sweet, like the Japanese Azuki bean, other varieties “explode” such as popcorn, like the Mexican variety Nuña.
A precious food despite its peasant nature, it is often used in exclusively winter dishes, underestimating its ability to enrich also fresh dishes. In fact, cooked white beans go very well with salads and aromatic herbs. If seasoned with parsley, tarragon and a little oil, they release fine, delicate and almost sugary flavors.
These legumes can, in fact, be subjected to a long cooking, in a normal or pressure cooker, to become a soft cream able to flavor not only the minestrone, but also the first courses. A classic recipe of poor cooking, made famous also by the cinema, is pasta and beans, a simple but full-flavored dish, to be served on the table very hot and well seasoned, with the right dose of spices and aromas, without forgetting the rosemary.
The beans are readily available on the market, both in the version of dry beans, which before being cooked require a period of soaking in water for a few hours, both in the pre-cooked version, canned or in glass, perfect for those with a few minutes to cook but that don’t want to give up in using them.
Depending on your tastes, you can choose between the different varieties, which differ in color, texture and taste. You can use the different types of beans: white, black, viola, red and yellow to give taste and color to a beautiful salad, perfect to be proposed among the side dishes or appetizers of your menu.
The beans in the kitchen become the protagonists not only of the first courses, but also of second courses and side dishes with a sweet and delicate taste. In addition to using them together with other vegetables for the preparation of original vegetarian burgers, you can simply cook them in a pan with a tasty tomato sauce, to bring the beans to the table. Sometimes the easiest recipes are also the most appreciated.
Some recipes with beans that I love are: bean soup, Cannellini bean cream, pasta and beans, sausages and beans, beans hamburger, beans meatballs, tacos.
Beans, like all legumes, are protein-rich foods of vegetable origin.
From a nutritional point of view, the bean is a food rich in vegetable proteins, lacking of the fats that normally accompany animal proteins, lending itself to diets low in cholesterol, and contribute greatly to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and obesity, while the constituent element of the peel is the fiber that has a decisive role in the regularity of intestinal functions. The percentages vary depending on the variety, but it can be stated that for 100 g of cooked beans, there is a percentage of protein between 8 and 20%.
Beans have high amounts of macro-elements such as phosphorus, iron, potassium and even micro-elements such as calcium, as well as vitamins such as vitamins A, B and C.
The beans are rich in lecithin, a substance that favors the dissolution of fat, preventing it from accumulating in the blood and thus reducing the level of cholesterol.
Good to know is that canned beans are as good as dry ones, but they have a high sodium content, so it is good to drain and rinse them before consuming them.
Thank you all for reading.
Join me next time and let’s discover Myanmar, the second country on earth that produces dry beans after India.
In Myanmar, the beans are normally grown immediately after the harvest of the main rice crop in the delta region (lower parts of Myanmar) and are grown as a monsoon crop in the central plain areas and Shan State (East part of country).
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
- Discovering our food: Cauliflower
- Discovering our food: Grapes
- Discovering our food: Eggplants
- Discovering our food: Parsley
- Discovering our food: Zucchini
- Discovering our food: Watermelon
- Discovering our food: Tomatoes
- Discovering our food: Basil
Photo credit Pixabay & Google Images edited by Popsicle Society