The Humble Bean

Boil, fry or bake the humble bean can be cooked in a variety of way’s. Many cultures for many many years have used beans as a staple for their simplicity to cook, ease to grow and ability to fill you up. Full of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, magnesium and filled with complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein you definitely get a bang for your buck and huge range of variety when it comes to consuming frijoles.

It wasn’t until we went to Bulgaria that I found a true appreciation for beans. Freddy was raised on beans growing up in a Mexican family and I mainly knew baked beans from childhood, canned beans for an easy meal when camping or when we had Mexican food. But many years later and a trip around the world which took us through eastern Europe, that was all to change. Our love for bean soups started for me and grew for the both of us in Poland with big brothy stews full of beans. We then continued to Georgia were lobio was a must if we saw it on the menu and then to Bulgaria. In Bulgaria we volunteered working on a small plot of land I was given the task of picking the beans, de-podding and cooking. What I was to discover wrapped up in an off white dry bean pod was the most beautiful array of colorful beans and after cooking them we where hooked, no more tinned beans anymore. Greece continued our loved affair with beans as we were introduced to more dishes with black eyed peas (the white bean with a black spot). Using more Mediterranean flavors of garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, dill and weeds (think dandelion greens).

After eastern Europe we traveled India and it was at another volunteer stay that we learnt to make Rajma consisting of red kidney beans and a spice filled gravy. Learning to use different spices when cooking with food that can irritate some peoples digestion or just increase gas is a very handy tool.  You see many legumes, nuts , seeds and grains have an outer coating that acts as their natural pesticide as they don’t have legs and therefore cannot run away.

Lectins are a protein found in many seeds, grains and legumes along with phytates which are known to rob the food of minerals. But beans have a plethora of minerals and both can be reduced if you practice slow cooking using the correct methods to prepare your food. 

This means soaking your bean’s and grain over night and cooking them for the correct length of time. Adding an acid also helps when soaking. So for grains and legumes go by the rule of soak, sour and heat. 

The length of time for cooking fresh beans (not canned) should be around 25-30 minutes, kidney beans usually take the longest and need around 60 minutes minimum.

Spices like cummin, fennel, turmeric and ginger are the best to use alongside beans when cooking as they enhance digestion and reduce the build up of gas plus they add good flavor to the dish and additional antioxidants.

Beans are also full of complex carbohydrates and fiber making them low GI for slow release of sugars from the starches. These starches act as prebiotics feeding the plethora of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Also a good source of protein and I could go on and on. Need I say more to convince you to include more beans in you life?!

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