1891 Vilmorin Andrieux et Cie - Old French Seed Catalogue

After leaving the cradle of my nativity in west Texas at the ripe old age of 17, and with the added veneer of education and world travel, I acquired a certain amount of sophistication that led me to not only shun, but also to mock overcooked green beans.  Like me, most of you trueborn Texans grew up with elders who cooked green beans to a gray-green softness that hardly needed a chew before it passed down your gullet.

This morning momma, I have come the full circle and wherever you are I apologize for all the times as an adult that I chided you for your overcooked beans.  As it turns out, you saved me from many a tummy ache when I was growing up under your roof.

This morning I was preparing for a class on growing pole beans that Loving Garland Green members will be presenting to the public at the Garland Good Samaritans on Thursday April 13 at 10AM. In my research on the scientific name Phaseolus vulgaris, which is the scientific name for the common bean, I learned that one scientific name covers all common beans—from navy beans to pinto beans and bush and pole beans alike.  That was somewhat of a shock to me as I thought we could rely on the scientific name to always identify the specific plant or animal being referenced.  I guess it’s not so specific after all.  If you’ve ever taken half a second to observe food as you eat it, you know that a navy bean and a pinto bean are not even the same color much less taste.

Most bean varieties have a toxic compound that is rendered harmless by cooking.

However, most earth-shattering news in my world this morning about beans came from Wiki:  “The toxic compound phytohaemagglutinin, a lectin   is present in many common bean varieties. “

To safely cook the beans, the U.S Food and Drug recommends boiling for 30 minutes to ensure they reach a sufficient temperature for long enough to completely destroy the toxin.For dry beans, the FDA also recommends an initial soak of at least 5 hours in water, which should then be discarded.  However, it is important to note that canned beans (even kidney beans which have the highest content of phytohaemagglutinin are safe to eat from the can.  [Thus my mother is not entirely off the hook as she boiled even the canned varieties for half an hour to an hour.]

The primary symptoms of phytohaemagglutinin poisoning are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Onset is from one to three hours after consumption of improperly prepared beans, and symptoms typically resolve within a few hours.

Beans may not be associated with increased risk of gout.

Beans are high in purines, which are metabolized to uric acid.  Uric acid is not a toxin as such, but may promote the development or exacerbation of gout.  So people with gout have been advised in the past to limit their consumption of beans. However, more recent research has questioned this association, finding that moderate intake of purine-rich foods is not associated with increased risk of gout.


Beans are Critical to Human Survival

One thing is certain, beans are critical to human survival.  Without them even more people on our planet would starve to death.  The United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.   

Pulses are beans and peas that are harvested dry. Examples are lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans, and more.

  1. Pulses provide a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe, ensuring food security.
  2. As part of a healthy diet high in fiber, pulses fight obesity.
  3. Pulses also prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions, and cancer.
  4. Pulses are an important source of plant-based protein for livestock.
  5. Pulses pull nitrogen from the air into the soil, increasing soil fertility.
  6. Pulses use less water than most other protein crops, making them a sustainable agricultural choice.

To help raise awareness of the importance of pulses, Loving Garland Green gave away free bean seeds at our Garland Go Green Health Expo booth last September. We also had a pot with green beans growing in it for demonstration.  After the event we donated the bean pot to the students at Watson, a local magnet school.

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