Bean There, Do That: Legume Lore, Why They Should Be In Your Kitchen and How to Cook Them
Beans, also called legumes or pulses, are the seed of the flowering plant family Fabaceae that produce fruits and seeds inside a pod, which also includes peas and lentils. With the pandemic disrupting normal life and reducing regular supply chains, a lot of my fellow herbivores have noticed that the bean aisle at the grocery store is a lot more bare than it used to be. It’s not just in our imagination. With beans being an excellent and affordable source of protein as well as folate, copper, zinc and other nutrients, it’s no wonder that a world in chaos is starting to come around to them. There could be worse things! In a way, we are returning to them. Beans were promoted as an accessible protein source in the United States during the Great Depression and World War II, but in some ways, this has served to cast them as a lesser food to only turn to when meat is less available. In addition to affordability and limiting the food-borne illnesses associated with flesh and animal products, not to mention the benefits to our heart and gut health as well as a reduction in Type 2 diabetes, beans should be in the very top spot for protein.
Just as lots of people are learning how to bake bread these days, people are experimenting more with beans. As convenient and easy as canned beans are, many of us with a little extra time on our hands these days are exploring dried beans: not only are they a bit easier to source these days, they are even more affordable and delicious than the canned kind. For a humble food associated with peasants — so-called peasants happen to be the best cooks around the globe — dried beans are still a bit mysterious. How do you prepare them? How do you improve the flavor, texture and digestibility? Don’t worry: we’ll get to that.
First, though, indulge me in a little deep dive down the beanstalk.
Fava beans, also known as broad beans or faba beans, are one of the most ancient cultivated plants, dating back to at least 6,000 B.C.E., where it was an important part of the Mediterranean diet thanks to its hardiness and ability to adapt to extreme differences in climates as well as capacity for growing in different kinds of soil conditions. The hearty beans were — and still…