Legume plants are the source of what we know today collectively as dry beans. Legumes produce pods that contain seeds and these seeds are made into dry beans.
It can be confusing to know which is a bean, which is a pea, and which one is a lentil. It helps to familiarize yourself with the shapes. Beans are generally oval or kidney-shaped. Peas are round. Lentils look like small flat disks.
The term “dry bean” describes the condition of the beans after they were processed for storage at home or commercial sale. Beans like pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, and black beans are packaged as dry food items, unlike canned beans which are preserved with brine or a similar solution.
Species: P. vulgaris
Binomial name: Phaseolus vulgaris
Dry bean Trivia
- Food historians believe that the earliest civilizations to domesticate beans are those living in modern-day Peru and Mexico 7,000 years ago.
- Never add salt to dry beans that you are cooking until they are tender. Adding salt early in the cooking of beans will make the bean’s skin impermeable, deterring the tenderizing process.
- If you add baking soda to the dry beans that you are cooking, you are removing the vitamin B in the dry beans.
- Pinto beans are the best kind of beans to use when making refried beans.
Dry bean Buying Guide
When buying dry means, make sure the beans are whole and there are no damaged beans. Dry beans also have general physical qualities like shape or color/color pattern. Check if the beans are generally consistent with the color or shape you expect them. Any discoloration or holes or damage in the beans or broken beans suggest that these beans are not safe to eat. Besides discoloration and signs of damage on the beans, check for signs the beans have shriveled since this may indicate that the beans are not fresh and maybe not ideal for eating too. Last but not the least, make sure that the beans you are buying are clean. If you bought loose dry beans in the supermarket, check for anything that should never find its way to your food, like dirt, twigs, small rocks, and other inedible debris. If you are buying dry beans, make sure to buy enough for six months.
Most important of all, make sure you know what you are buying and what it looks like. According to the US Dry Bean Council, below are the types of US dry beans:
- Adzuki – These are small, reddish-brown, with a sweet, nutty flavor commonly used in Asian cuisine.
- Baby Lima – These rich, buttery, flat-shaped creamy white beans are great for soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Black Bean – Small, oval-shaped beans. Skin is deep black while the flesh is gray to a dark cream. They have a mild, sweet, earthy flavor others call turtle beans. Black beans are commonly found in Caribbean and American Southwest dishes, particularly in their soups, stews, and sauces.
- Blackeye – White skin with a black-eye. This kidney-shaped bean is best for stir-fry, or use in making turkey and bean salad.
- Cranberry – Plump, oblong beans with red marks over an ivory-cream skin. It has a creamy texture and a nut-like taste, commonly used in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese cooking.
- Dark Red Kidney – Characterized with its deep red color. This large, kidney-shaped bean goes well with chicken and rice, usually used in making chili.
- Garbanzo – It has a beige to pale yellow color, a buttery texture, and a nutty taste. They are popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines.
- Great Northern – This flat, kidney-shaped bean is white and has a delicate flavor, popular in France (cassoulet) and the US (Boston baked beans).
- Large Lima – This ivory bean is flat but it has a smooth, creamy, and sweet flavor which is why it is sometimes called butter beans; excellent in soups and casseroles.
- Light Red Kidney – This kidney-shaped bean has the color of a faded red/brown. Popular in the Caribbean region, Portugal, and Spain.
- Navy – Small, white, oval beans which are also called pea beans used in pork and baked beans, as well as in stews and soups.
- Pink – They are pink when uncooked but turn reddish-brown once cooked. Popular in Old American West recipes like chilis.
- Pinto – Characterized by its mottled beige and brown skin which disappears after it is cooked, this oval-shaped bean has an earthy flavor and is typically used when cooking Tex-Mex dishes.
- Small Red – Smaller version of the red kidney. This is also called Mexican red beans popular in making Creole dishes.
Dry bean Production & Farming in Texas
Beans enjoy full sun and grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. Make sure to sow seeds directly to a depth of one inch. Space the seeds 2 inches apart in rows 36-48 inches apart. Soil requirement is 6.1 to 6.5 pH. Beans can grow in climate zones 3A to 10B.
Beans are generally warm-weather crops, making them a suitable choice for Texas growers because of the climate in Texas. For example, Central Texas weather makes it an ideal location to plant many kinds of dry beans, like adzuki, black, fava, garbanzo, great northern white, kidney, and lima beans, among others.
When planting beans, it is important to know the season and when it is changing during the year. For example, the best time to plant beans in Central Texas is in late spring or early summer. This means a fall harvest. If there is too much rain, you run the risk of having rotten pods. When pods have turned brown and dry (it varies depending on what type of beans you have planted), it means it is ready to be harvested. Others let the plant die first before beginning the harvest. Just make sure you harvest before a period of rain. Pods harvested just after a downpour should hang upside-down until the pods have dried out. When the pods are completely dry, you can begin shelling. Put the shelled beans in containers and leave them open for at least two more weeks to dry. This is why these beans are called dry beans.
Different bean plants are targeted by a particular group of pests but overall, beans have to deal with these insects that can require organic methods as well as the use of pesticides and insecticides.
- 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. You can also use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides.
- Bean weevils – To prevent larvae infestations, it is advisable to use juvenile parasitic nematodes. A serious infestation of bean weevils requires the use of pyrethrum, rotenone, or sabadilla.
- Cutworms – Pesticides such as carbaryl will kill cutworms attacking your beans. Pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and the insecticide permethrin are also useful for this purpose.
- Aphids – Kill aphids destroying your beans 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.
- Pod borer – Use contact insecticides to prevent infestation. Pyrethroids including bifenthrin and permethrin are effective against borers.
- Stink bugs – Use chemical sprays containing zeta-cypermethrin, bifenthrin, or carbaryl.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use slug bait or copper tape against slugs and snails.
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.
Companies use plastic food-grade packs for packaging 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.
Enjoying Dry beans
Dry beans are a popular ingredient in many dishes all around the world that people enjoy eating. Moros Y Christianos, made using black beans and rice seasoned with bacon, cumin, cayenne, and lime, is considered a classic Cuban dish. Mexicans eat beans regularly, and refried pinto is a common side dish at lunch or dinner, or served with eggs and tortillas. In France, beans are an important ingredient in making the one-dish rice meal cassoulet which includes white beans, chicken, pork, duck confit and sausage, white wine, garlic, and thyme. Beans are also used in Italian pasta and soup dishes. In Egypt, chickpeas and white beans are used in cooking traditional beef stew. In Greece, beans are pureed with olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, and thyme.
Make sure to use a dry food container with a lid as storage for dry beans. Place this in a cool, dry place. If you have leftovers from dry beans you already soaked for cooking (but are still uncooked), simply refrigerate them, but make sure to cook these beans in three days. If you have any leftover cooked dry beans, put these in a food container with a lid and refrigerate them.
It is important to soak beans before cooking. Dry beans recover lost moisture as a result of dry packaging processes. It also helps make the beans softer and easy to cook as well as easy and enjoyable to eat.
When cooking dry beans, make sure to always stir them; if not, the beans will stick in the pot. You’ll know the dry beans are cooked if they are tender but not mushy. Here’s a cooking tip: use a tablespoon of oil or butter. This reduces foaming and boil-overs.
Beans remain an important source of protein in the modern diet. Dry beans are high in complex carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, iron, and folate. They are low in fat, sodium, and calories. Dry beans are cholesterol-free and rich in vitamins and minerals. If you eat beans, you give your body soluble fiber which helps in lowering your blood cholesterol levels. Eating dry beans can also help in improving glucose control among diabetics. Kidney beans are the most nutrient-dense types of beans compared to soybeans and peas.