Beans are kind of awesome when you think about it! Want to know why? Of course you do! Read on for more information about one of the world’s most versatile, nutritious foods!
Beans, despite their bad rap for causing certain, ahem, digestive issues, are really, really good for you. Beans provide an excellent source of vegetable protein and minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. They are rich in folic acid, associated with the reduction of such birth defects as Spina Bifida and also protect against heart disease. Beans are also a good source of calcium, and are rich in fiber which helps to bring down cholesterol levels and regulates the digestive system. Beans, particularly black ones, are also a good source of antioxidants and may provide health benefits similar to some common fruits, including grapes, apples and cranberries (http://www.usdrybeans.com).
|Bean plants beginning to dry|
There are many varieties of beans out there, each with a unique taste and color. There are beans that are grown and stay in their pods, like green beans, and beans that are allowed to dry in the pod, then are shelled, hence “dry beans.” These are the kinds of beans our farmers grow, and the kind most versatile and suited to storage, so that’s what we’ll focus on in this article.
|Varieties of Dry Beans|
Dry beans are inexpensive, store well, can be thrown in just about any dish, grow in all sorts of conditions, and provide a huge nutritional punch. Beans are a staple food in a huge portion of the world because of these properties, and are a big part of food aid programs. Beans grown in the US are non-GMO, and very uniform, meaning that their nutritional value does not vary, except for minor differences at the micronutrient level (http://www.usdrybeans.com). Beans can be packaged in 50 pound bags, shipped across the world, stacked high in humid warehouses, and still be in perfect condition and with the same great nutrients for dinner tonight, and the next year, and in 20 years! Not many other food commodities can boast that track record!
A lot of people, myself included, can be a little intimidated by dry beans, especially when preparing dry beans, not canned, pre-cooked dry beans. Here are some tips on preparation from the US Dry Bean Council. If anyone knows how to cook dry beans, it’s these guys. The quickest and most consistent way to prepare bulk dry beans is to give them a hot soak. Here are the instructions:
- Place beans in a pot and add 10 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans.
- Heat to boiling and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for 4 to 24 hours.
- Drain beans, discard soak water and rinse with fresh, cool water
Links to other ways to prep dry beans for cooking can be found here. You can prep a nice, big pot of beans all at once, then freeze them in 1 or 2 cup portions to use in future recipes.
Beans can be added to pretty much any recipe, even desserts (black bean brownies, anyone?). Throw them in breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs, tacos, spaghetti, hamburgers, salads, pasta, soups, and so on and so forth. The more colored beans, like black and kidney, have a stronger taste and go great with strong flavored dishes. Lighter navy, garbanzo, and great northern white beans are mild, and work well with lighter flavored foods. Don’t be afraid to add beans! They add “oomph” to your meal, can act as a substitute for meat, and provide all those good vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.
|Bean plants soaking up the sun|
For more bean information and recipes, visit: