With two of my favorite recipes at the end!
“Beans, beans are good for your heart, the more you eat…”
Most everyone I know grew up chanting the bean diddy about the magical fruit that’s good for your heart, but did you know how true that is? Beans and legumes are the fruit or seed of the plant family, Fabaceae. They are rich in fiber and vitamin B, and their health benefits include the ability to help reduce high cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and increase good bacteria in the gut.
My sister and some of my friends are in the “bean-bashing” crowd. Whether its because they can’t stand the texture, they have trouble digesting them, or they’re avoiding carbs, I hereby acknowledge all the lovelies who don’t consume legumes. But for those of us who do, tomorrow, January 6, 2020, is National Bean Day so we’re celebrating with some fun facts and recipes.
Some of the healthiest beans you can eat include:
- Kidney Beans
- Black Beans
- Soy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Navy Beans
The popular nursery rhyme pease porridge hot, published by John Newberry’s Mother Goose’s Melody, around 1760, refers to the method of cooking dried split green peas during the Middle Ages. Peasants kept a large cauldron over the cooking fire where dried split pea porridge was often all the family had to eat. Other ingredients, like salt pork, would be added when available. Pease porridge is still a traditional British dish today, even available in cans, although it is not prepared over a fire in a huge cauldron.
A word of caution about these lovely legumes. Beans naturally contain anti-nutrients, plant compounds that reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. They need to be properly prepared to enjoy maximum health benefits. Healthine offers a great article on different methods of soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and boiling to reduce antinutrients in beans.
Fun facts about the magical fruit:
Pythagoras, a 6th century philosopher and mathematician, disliked beans. Some historians attribute his aversion to his belief that legumes contained deceased souls.
The English surname Bean is derived from an occupational producer and seller of beans. More than 71,000 people worldwide share the last name today.
Similar to casting lots, minor public officials in Ancient Greece were elected by drawing beans. The person who got the white bean got the job.
Guinness World Records lists the largest pot of baked beans contained 5,600 litres (1,231.83 UK gal; 1,479.36 US gal), by Davcev Stojan and DASTO (both Macedonia) outside the Orthodox Church at Sarcievo Village, Macedonia, on 7 August 2012, beating the 2010 record set by Alabama Butterbean Festival’s 1,010 gallon pot.
The most baked beans eaten in five minutes with a cocktail stick is 275 by David Rush (USA) in Boise, Idaho, USA, on 6 December 2018.
Vermont ranks highest in searching for bean recipes online in the USA. Montana and Wyoming are second and third.
Since 1991, North Dakota has been the top-ranking producer of dry edible beans in the United States. Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Idaho rounded out the top five states. U.S. production of dry beans totaled 28.7 million cwt in 2016.
The longest recorded time for sitting in a bath of cold baked beans is 100 hours by Barry “Captain Beany” Kirk of Port Talbot, West Glamorgan (United Kingdom).
Now for the celebration, I’m including two of my favorite bean recipes, baked and Tuscan.
Regina’s Favorite Baked Beans
Recipe note: Here’s my favorite baked beans recipe to serve a crowd. One recipe will be plenty for a crowd of 25-30 or more considering not everyone eats beans and they are usually consumed in smaller portions at a potluck. You can easily halve the recipe. These beans also freeze and reheat well. I use all vegetarian-style beans for this recipe, and reduced sodium and organic as much as possible. I’m including seller’s links, so you can see the kinds of beans I’m referencing and if you’re inclined to order online. Some of the prices for the beans are for cases of twelve, not individual cans. Alternatively, you can easily shop your grocery store or favorite brand for like-seasoned beans. You can also add bacon for flavor.
4 cans (15-ounce cans each) vegetarian-style baked beans
2 cans (15 ounces each) sweet baked beans
2 cans (15 ounces each) bold and spicy baked beans
*1 jar (16-18 ounces) sweet and smoky BBQ sauce
*1 jar (16-18 ounces) pineapple habanero BBQ sauce (I usually find this as a specialty item in the grocery store among the BBQ sauces.)
2 medium onions, diced small
2 red bell peppers, diced small
3 cans (10 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green chilies
4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (can use vegan)
¼ – ½ cup sorghum cane molasses, brown sugar, or molasses (your preference)
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
Bacon, if using
*Start by using half the bottles of BBQ sauce and then add to your desired consistency.
Method: Drain tomatoes with green chilies well. Finely chop onions and peppers. Mix all ingredients together. If you’re adding bacon, layer a few unfried strips throughout the beans as you pour them into the baking dish and layer a few unfried strips across the top. Pour all ingredients into Dutch oven, roasting pan, baking dish, or crock pot. Simmer uncovered for a minimum of 3 hours, but longer is even better.
Tuscan White Beans with Garlic and Sage
Recipe from The New Vegetarian Epicure, by AnnaThomas
Recipe Note: Sometimes I skip adding the fresh sage during cooking and just add Tuscan seasoning toward the end to taste.
1 pound dry small white beans
Handful of fresh sage leaves OR 2 Tablespoons dried whole-leaf sage
1 head garlic (this is the whole head, not just one clove) separated and peeled
3-4 Tablespoons fruity green olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Pinch of ground ginger OR baking soda during cooking to aid in digestion.
Method: Soak beans in cool water for a minimum of eight hours, or use quick soak method on the package.
Drain beans and place in large shallow skillet, with enough fresh water to cover them by an inch. I use my cast iron. Add sage leaves and garlic and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Add pinch of ground ginger OR baking soda to help make them more digestible. You won’t taste either in the finished product. Bring to boil, then lower heat to gentle simmer.
Allow beans to simmer gently for several hours until they are good and tender. Do NOT stir often and keep enough water on them to keep them covered. Shortly before they’re done, add two tablespoons salt and the Tuscan seasoning if you’re using. When the beans are soft, but not mushy, transfer to wide shallow serving bowl, drizzle with remaining olive oil and top with fresh cracked pepper.
These are delicious hot or served at room temperature.
Whatever recipe you choose to use and however you choose to celebrate, Happy Bean Day!