Bean is a generic term used to describe any member of a variety of edible seeds of pod plants, ideally the ones belonging to the Leguminosae family. They are often confused with pulses and others resembling them, but actually belonging to another family. Many cuisines of the world have included the bean owing to its nutritional worth. Baked beans, is a favorite Western cuisine breakfast food. Though the term ‘Bean’ has originally been confined to referring to the broad bean, in due course of time, the scope of usage of the term has been expanded to include a lot of ingredients which are not botanically a part of the bean family but resemble them and are used like them. Common bean, runner bean, kidney bean, soya bean, garbanzo bean, peas, lentils, vetches and lupins are all considered as beans by many cuisines. Baked beans, Chili con carne, Feijoda( Portuguese bean stew), Rajma( Indian Red Kidney Bean curry), and Lima Bean Casserole are only a few of the thousands of bean dishes that are a part of the different cuisines of the world.
History of the Bean and Bean Recipes
Bean was first discovered in the Asian countries of Thailand, Himalayas and Afghanistan with the discovery of the broad bean. Later it was taken to Europe. One of the oldest crop beans of America was discovered at GuitarreroCave of South America. The common bean is being cultivated for the past six thousand years in America. In Europe, many varieties of America beans were introduced.
Culinary Uses of Bean
The bean is used by different cuisines across the world to make different types of bean dishes. Beans of different varieties are used for the purpose. Pre-soaking in water to tenderize the bean and then boiling it is the preferred method of cooking most beans, though some beans do not require pre-soaking. Most beans are used commonly for making salads, soups, dips and stews. The beans that are commonly used for culinary purposes are:
- Adzuki - Also known as Aduki, this small, red-colored, sweet-tasting bean, commonly used by Asian cuisine to make accompaniment dishes (with/without soy sauce) for rice/ barely dishes and also for making desserts.
- Ansazi bean- Also known as cave bean, Aztec Bean, New Mexico Appaloosa, New Mexico Cave bean or Jacob’s Cattle Bean, this red and white colored dry bean of New Mexican origin is used in traditional native American bean recipes. This boiled bean has sweet taste and meaty texture.
- Black Bean- Also known as turkey bean, this oval shaped black-colored bean with a soft feel and bland taste, which is sold dried or precooked, is best suited for making Latin American accompaniment bean dishes.
- Black Eyed Pea- Also known as cow pea, this white pea with a black mark , the main ingredient of the Southern U.S. Hoppin John, is used in casseroles and rice dishes
- Cannellini – Also knownas white kidney bean, this mildly flavored bean is available in both canned and dried forms.
- Garbanzo Bean – Also known as chickpea, this big, rounded, cream-colored bean is used in Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Latin-American and Spanish accompaniment bean dishes, pasta, and dips.
- CoronaBean- A large, white Italian bean attains a meaty texture on being cooked
- Cranberry Bean – Also known as Italian Borlotti, this pink shelled bean with red stripes is commonly used for making bean pastas.
- Fava Bean – Also known as Broad bean, this flat-tasting, creamy bean is used by accompaniment bean recipes
- Flageolet Bean – A French bean with a shell, the braised version of which is a classic accompaniment to the French leg of lamb, is also eaten as a cold salad.
- Great Northern Beans-A white , medium-sized bean used mostly in baked bean dishes
- Red Kidney Bean- A medium sized red, oval bean which is a popular favorite for the South Western US. Chilies, casserole and refried bean dishes are made with it.
- Lentils – Red, brown, or green legumes which can be cooked without being soaked in water prior to cooking.
- Lima Beans- Also known as Butter beans, Calico or Madagascar beans, they taste good especially when buttered.
- Lupini Bean– A large white Italian bean with bitter taste.
- Marrow Bean– A plumpish Italian bean which can be used as a substitute in bean recipes for bacon because of its meaty texture. It is also used in braised meat dishes.
- Mung Bean– An Indian bean, also known as Mung Dal or Yellow Mung or Yellow Split Mung is used in curries and as a rice accompaniment dish called dal.
- Navy Bean– A strongly-flavored white bean also known as Boston Bean, Fagioli, Pearl Haricot Bean, or Haricot Blanc, is a key ingredient of bean dishes like Canned Pork and Beans
- Pink Bean– This ubiquitous bean is commonly used in chili con carne and refried bean dishes.
- Pinto Bean- Brown or beige, medium-sized speckled beans mostly used by Southwestern bean recipes
- Red Bean– Also known as small red beans are mostly found in Mexican bean dishes
- Runner Bean- Large beans about an inch in size. Scarlet black or white beans, Madeira beans, Giant Pinto and Aztec beans belong to this category.
- Soyabean– Black and yellow varieties are present, of which black, the sweeter of the two is commonly used in Asian cooking.
- Spilt Peas- Yellow or green halved peas, which are boiled to make soups
- White Pea- Also known as small white pea is a generic term for a group of peas
Nutritive Value of Bean and Bean Recipes
A bean, of most varieties is commonly found to be rich in folate, fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and hence is highly nutritious and healthy for the human body. They are found to be beneficial in improving the health of cancer patients, diabetics and those with cholesterol problems. Soybean is found to be beneficial to the human heart. Beans are suitable for consumption by people of all age groups. As beans contain sugars called oligosaccharides which cause flatulence and gastric problems in human beings. People suffering with these medical conditions may try to consume or totally avoid them.
Buying and Storing Beans
Bean is commercially available in bulk on discount. But it is always advisable to buy in bulk only when one has the capacity to store the item properly. Proper storage of beans involves storing it in transparent vacuum jars, in a cool and dry place, away from bright light as these factors tend to deteriorate it.
Beans can be wrapped up in bags which are used as hot pads for body aches.
Cautionary Fact: Red Kidney Bean contains a toxic element called Phytohaemagglutinin which is present in the raw state of the bean. Even the bean cooked in the crockpot may contain that element. It is always better to boil the bean for 10 minutes or more to destroy the toxin, and then use it to make bean dishes.