Any member of the flowering plant family Fabaceae produces seeds, and we call these beans. When humans discovered beans, they considered this food, not just for them but for animals as well. It wouldn’t be long before humans learned how to cook beans. They found beans taste good boiled, fried, and even baked. Today, many traditional and modern foods all around the world are made from beans.
- The term “The Three Sisters” refers to squash, corn, and beans which are planted side by side one another because they are codependent and have a harmonious and beneficial relationship with one another.
- An estimated 40,000 different bean varieties are currently stored in the world genebanks; however, very few are mass-produced.
- In 12th-century Germany, broad beans, chickpea, and other pod-borne seeds are called bohne.
Bean Buying Guide
There are different kinds of beans and there is a suitable bean for a specific type of dish. It helps to familiarize yourself with the different types of beans so that you know which one to buy and how to differentiate one from the other when looking at beans in the grocery or supermarket.
- The genus Vicia, commonly known as vetches. The most common from this genus is Vicia faba, commonly known as broad bean or fava bean.
- The genus Phaseolus, the most common are tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius), runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus), lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), and the common bean that includes the pinto bean, kidney bean, black bean, and many others (Phaseolus vulgaris).
- The genus Vigna, that includes the adzuki bean (Vigna angularis), the mung bean (Vigna radiata), the cowpea, black-eyed pea, yardlong bean, and others (Vigna unguiculata), and many more.
- The genus Cicer, which includes chickpea or garbanzo bean (Cicer arietinum).
- The genus Pisum, which includes pea (Pisum sativum).
- The genus Lens, which includes lentil (Lens culinaris).
- The genus Glycine, which includes soybean (Glycine max).
- The genus Psophocarpus, which includes the winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus).
- The genus Arachis, which includes peanuts (Arachis hypogea).
Bean Production & Farming in Texas
Beans are a summer crop. They do well in warm weather. Beans reach maturity in 55 to 60 days. Beans change color when they mature. Bean plants require support so they can climb and grow. The reason for the recent development of the bush bean is to make plants not overly reliant on artificial support or assistance. The bush bean does not require support. It can have all of its pods develop simultaneously, unlike pole beans which develop gradually, making the bush bean the practical choice when it comes to commercial production.
In Texas, the most common types of beans grown include green snap beans, lima beans, and other horticultural types of beans.
Bean plants deal with a variety of pests, including mites beetles, aphids, stink bugs, leaffooted bugs, thrips, pod borers, and pod bugs. In some cases, pests can be managed without using chemicals. But when severe infestations happen, it becomes a necessity to use insecticides, pesticides, or other types of chemical solutions.
- Mites – To get rid of mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to get rid of beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Stink bugs – Use alpine insecticide.
- Leaffooted bugs – To kill these bugs, use broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin. The only disadvantage is the potential to kill bees and other beneficial insects as well. You may also consider using insecticidal soap or botanicals. Neem oil or pyrethrin may prove helpful.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
- Bean pod borer – Using pesticides to fight bean pod borers is not recommended because of many reasons. First, pesticides will kill insects that prey on bean pod borers. The second reason is this: pesticides are largely ineffective since caterpillars are hidden most of the time inside the pods. Also, pesticides are expensive, and using them may lead to the development of moths resistant to the pesticide. You may want to consider these tips. Never plant next to infested crops. Make time to inspect your plant and if there are signs of bean pod borers, handpick them. Grow beans between rows of corn or sorghum. Many African countries use this method because it is effective in keeping bean pod borer away. Finally, make sure to collect crop debris after harvest and destroy them. An insecticide helps deal with this process. Pick a plant-derived product (e.g. neem, derris, and pyrethrum, with the addition of soap). Use spinosad and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki). Use rotenone insecticide. Try synthetic pyrethroids also, although this will bean pod borer’s natural enemies.
- Pod bug – To kill pod bugs, use derris or pyrethrum spray. Synthetic options include pyrethroids or malathion. although this will kill the pod bugs’ natural enemies like assassin bugs, mantids, spiders, and wasps.
The list of top producers of beans worldwide is a testament to the high demand for beans in different parts of the world and how beans can be grown in different environments. India is the top producer of pulses (dried seeds of legume plants), followed by Canada. Two Asian countries – Myanmar and China – complete the top five along with African country Nigeria. Russia, Ethiopia, Brazil, Australia, the US, Niger, and Tanzania are also among the top producers of beans. In the dry beans category, the top producers are as follows: Myanmar, India, Brazil, China, Mexico, Tanzania, the US, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.
Bean packaging can either be (1) cans if it is preserved in saltwater or what others call aquafaba (liquid inside canned chickpeas), or (2) plastic packs for dry beans. Plastic packaging varies. You can buy beans in vacuum-sealed plastic. Others use resealable plastic packaging. It is also common to find dry beans sold in small quantities in mylar bags or resealable aluminum foil pouch. Beans packaging contains important information for consumers, including expiration or best before date, nutrition data, details about the manufacturer, etc.
Eating beans is generally healthy for you. But there are some important things to consider when eating beans. Flatulence may not be life-threatening but it can result in an embarrassing experience. Other problems are more serious, like the presence of toxins and the threat of bacterial contamination.
However, there is an issue with beans we call “antinutrients” which inhibit some enzyme processes in the body. An example of this is phytic acid and other phytates which hinder the metabolism of vitamin D and thus inhibiting the important process of bone growth.
One thing commonly associated with eating beans is flatulence. It is true and there is a scientific explanation for that. Many beans contain oligosaccharides. The human body does not have anti-oligosaccharide enzymes to properly digest this sugar molecule. As a result, the bacteria in the large intestines are the ones that digest the oligosaccharide resulting in a methane byproduct that is released by the body as flatulence.
Another important thing to remember when eating beans is to prepare them properly because of the toxins present in some beans. The lectin phytohaemagglutinin is present in beans like the red kidney beans. This is a harmful, tasteless toxin, but it can be removed by boiling the raw beans for at least 10 minutes or longer.
Another potential health threat from eating beans is a bacterial infection from bean sprouts like mung beans. If not properly cleaned and thoroughly cooked, there is the risk of disease from bacterial contamination (e.g. salmonella, listeria, and Escherichia coli).
Many African countries are dependent on a diet where beans play a major role. This is the case in countries like Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
For dry beans, make sure you transfer them to a food-safe container with a tight-sealing lid. Put the container in a cool, dry place. Avoid areas where the container is exposed to direct sunlight.
Canned beans are safe at room temperature as long as they are not exposed to direct sunlight.
People all around the world cook and eat beans in a variety of ways. Beans are great with tomato sauce. Beans also complement the flavor of other vegetables, that is why beans are used in making soups (like the Grah i Varivah or Croatian bean soup) and stews. The traditional African bean stew and the Eastern European Jewish Sabbath dish cholent are two examples. Mexican food like the taco and enchilada use beans as filling, while refried beans are a staple in Tex-Mex cuisine. Chili con carne is a popular dish using beans. Beans are also great paired with red meat. This explains the success of the popular pork and beans. Beans and seafood are also a great combination. Baked beans are another popular dish using beans. In Serbia, they make baked beans called prebranac, a food that is ideal to eat during Lent when Orthodox Christians are fasting. It is also a common practice to cook or eat beans with rice. This is just an overview of the many ways beans are cooked in different parts of the world since the time humans started eating this particular type of food.
One of the fascinating things about beans is that it is an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and even until today, beans remain an important source of protein in modern diet. Beans are also high in complex carbohydrates, as well as folate and iron. If you eat beans, you give your body soluble fiber which helps in lowering your blood cholesterol levels. Lentil and kidney beans are the most nutrient-dense types of beans compared to soybeans and peas.