A brief guide to beans

 dried beans

We mentioned earlier this year that 2016 was the UN's International Year of the Pulses. We're back with more bean cuisine, this time via Food Republic, who gives us the lowdown on legumes and beans with a guide to the beans you need to know (and cook).

Food Republic's post focuses on several "new world" beans, i.e. beans of North or South American provenance, although a few "old world" varieties are also covered. Many popular beans are "technically members of the same species and share a lot of the same DNA - their differences stem mostly from selective breeding and historical population bottlenecks," according to author Paul Harrison. The article discusses a dozen types of beans, from adzuki to garbanzo to navy to pinto.

He posts several interesting facts about beans. For instance, did you know that cannellini (aka white kidney), kidney, and lima (aka butter) beans all contain a toxin that must be purged before they can be safely eaten? Raw kidney beans contain high levels of a specific toxin called Phytohaemagglutinin. "To rid the beans of toxins, you need to pre-soak, then boil them for at least 10 minutes, though the [US] FDA recommends no less than 30 minutes to be on the safe side," notes Harrison.

Many beans are associated with a particular region or culture. Black-eyed peas, although originating in West Africa, have come to be associated with the Southern US states, where they are traditionally eaten on New Years' Day. Cranberry beans went in the opposite direction. Originally bred in Colombia as cargamanto beans, they have since been widely adopted in Italy and the Mediterranean, where they are called borlotti beans, Roman beans, saluggia beans, or rosecoco beans.

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