Dried beans and peas are collectively called legumes. Legumes can be defined as edible seeds that grow in pods. Because they are easy to grow and store, they have been a staple food for thousands of years. As one of the oldest agricultural crops known to mankind, beans have been found in Egyptian tombs and are often referenced in the Bible. In the 17th century, it was thought that beans possessed magical powers and were believed to cure everything from the common cold to baldness!
Beans are a nutrient-dense food, which means they provide nutritional value for the number of calories consumed. Beans contain no cholesterol, and only average 1.1 grams of fat per one cup serving (depending upon how they are prepared). In addition to being a good source of protein, legumes also provide carbohydrates, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. Beans are also an excellent source of dietary fiber! They contain an average of 5 to 11 grams per half cup cooked.
Legumes are also a good bargain. They have been at or near the top of the USDA’s list of foods that provide the most protein per dollar spent. When dry beans are soaked and cooked, they more than double in volume and weight in contrast to foods that are higher in moisture and shrink during cooking.
Here are some storage and preparation tips that may come in handy:
Traditional Method: To one pound of dry beans add 6 cups of cold water. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (optional). Let stand overnight or 6 to 8 hours. Do not refrigerate. Drain, rinse and cook.
Quick Method: To one pound of dry beans, add 6 to 8 cups of hot water, with or without 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Heat, let boil 3 minutes, cover and set aside for an hour. Drain, rinse and cook. Be sure the pan you soak the beans in is large enough to allow them to expand 2 ½ times.
Standard Method: Drain and rinse soaked beans; put them into a sufficient size pot. Add 6 cups hot water; 1 to 2 tablespoons cooking oil; 2 teaspoons salt. Boil gently with lid tilted until desired tenderness is reached.
Savory Method: Follow standard directions, but use 2 teaspoons onion salt and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder in addition to one teaspoon of salt. Add 1 tablespoon or chicken stock base or 2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes and ¼ teaspoon white pepper.
People often avoid eating beans because then cause intestinal discomfort i.e. gas, bloating, and indigestion. To reduce the gas-producing quality of beans, be sure to discard the soaking water; boil them in plenty of fresh water. It may also help to eat beans in smaller amounts, especially if they are a new addition to your diet.