We often think of beans as vegetables, but the truth of the matter is they are actually a seed of a group of flowering plants that are part of a family called, Fabaceae. I have no clue how to pronounce it, but now you know.
These are technically a legume and their name refers to one of five categories of legume. They are broken down into beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts. (I am as baffled as you probably are right now.)
Most often they are kidney-shaped and grow in long pods on certain legume plants, and much like vegetables, they are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, as well as phytonutrients. Unlike many vegetables, they are a great source of plant-based protein.
They are sold in all sorts of ways. The fresh variety is often accessible at the farmers market. Think green, cranberry, and kidney beans (along with others,) and more and believe it or not some are edible raw while others need to be cooked before you eat them.
Dried beans are super popular as a pantry staple. You can find these in the bulk section of your grocery store or in bags near the canned foods aisle. These are typically soaked before they are cooked.
Canned beans are probably the type we are most familiar with. These are great for when you are in a hurry and need beans fast. I like to doctor mine up and to do that, I heat them in a broth with some aromatics to give them a bit of character.
Fun Facts About Beans:
There are over 40,000 varieties. A fraction of this is produced on a commercial scale.
These varieties vary greatly by size, shape, color, and texture.
January 6th is the national day to celebrate them.
They have been grown and cultivated by us for about 6,000 years.
The tallest bean plant on record was 46 feet tall.
North Dakota grows 1/3 of the beans in the U.S.
Legumes are a dietary staple in areas known for longevity.
They are generally great for you, but if you are ranking them in terms of healthful qualities, the top contenders are kidney, black, and soybeans.
Is it okay to eat them every day?
Indeed! Their nutrient-rich makeup is proven to be more filling than animal-based meals which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. Keep in mind, digestive upset can happen if you aren’t used to consuming them regularly and starting slow is a good idea.
Do you have to soak beans before cooking?
Not a requirement at all, but it does help shorten the overall cook time of them and contribute to a better texture when they are cooked.
How do you make flavorful beans?
This is my trick for canned kind. Drain them and give them a good rinse before simmering them in some low sodium chicken broth or stock to warm them. Add a glug or two of olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a sprig of thyme or rosemary, and a pinch of salt to bolster flavor.