Beans grow for drying were one of the
very first crops cultivated by man. Some variety of legume, dried and
used for food, is grown in literally every country of the world. The
variety is staggering (nearly twelve thousands kinds are known) and the
wholesome, nourishing dishes traditionally prepare are frequently as
delicious as they are life sustaining.
Fresh beans, such as green beans, tiny French haricots verts, wax
beans, Chinese yard-long beans, and Italian flat beans are eaten pod
and all. Other fresh beans, lima beans and fava beans for example,
along with all dried beans, are shelled, and the pod is often fed to
animals as fodder. Dried beans are basically the same vegetables many
of the fresh varieties we eat. They have simply been left on the vine
to wither and dry completely before being harvested. They are a
naturally dehydrated food that must be soaked or simmered to restore
the water content.
Dried beans have much to recommend them. Pound for pound they pack more
energy and nutritional value than almost any other food. They keep well
for long periods of time, are easy to carry or ship, are inexpensive,
and lend themselves to even the most rudimentary cooking conditions. If
all else fails, they can simply be boiled over a small fire and
flavored with almost anything at hand, even if that is only a pinch of
salt. For these reasons travelers of all kinds have relied on them
during long voyages, whether they were conquering armies, trading
expeditions, or our own settlers migrating west. More has been
accomplished on a stomachful of beans than can possibly be imagined.
And what we donít eat we deed to our animals.
Full of complex carbohydrates, including sugars, and high in fiber,
beans are slow to digest-what your grandmother used to call a
"stick-to-the-ribs" food. In fact, it is precisely these complex sugars
that lead to the one unfortunate aspect of beans (and some other
vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers, and cucumbers as well). Many
people lack the specific enzyme that breaks down these complex sugars
into simpler ones that can be move easily and complexly digested. The
result is that the residual sugars ferment in the digestive tract,
creating gases that can be uncomfortable for the consumer and
unpleasant for his or her neighbors.
There have been many solutions proffered over the years, and there have
even been government studies that seemed to indicate that continued
consumption of beans or other ultra-high fiber goods would acclimate
the body after a period of time. While this may be true for some, the
majority of people who lack the enzyme continue to suffer the effects
of this as-producing process to some degree or other. There is hope
now, however. In the last year or two a product called Beano, has been
developed that can safely provide this enzyme (alpha galactosidase)-in the form of a tablet or drops. People who have never before been
able to digest beans (and some other vegetables, such as broccoli,
cabbage, peppers and cucumbers) in a socially acceptable manner can now
indulge to their heartsí content without the worry of unpleasant after
And I have it on good authority that this
product has saved at least one marriage!