Top Pick Of The Week

October 12, 2010

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Phaseolus vulgaris, the “common bean,” includes dry field varieties such as the Black (or Turtle) Bean, Cannellini Bean, Great Northern Bean, Lima (or Butter) Bean, Navy (or Pea) Bean, Pinto Bean, Red Kidney Bean and the Yellow Eye Bean, above, which is anything but “common.” All photography by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

WHAT IT IS: Gourmet beans grown from heirloom strains.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Freshness, softness and flavor over “starchiness.”
WHY WE LOVE IT: Beauty, variety and tasty fun.
WHERE TO BUY IT:  See individual listings.

.Rancho Gordo Gourmet Beans
Page 2: Dry Beans

Dry Beans Overview

Beans—picked from the fields and dried—are found in hundreds of shapes, sizes and colors. Some are quite beautiful: Fill glass canisters for an eye-pleasing kitchen decoration that can be eaten and refilled.

Beans are versatile for cooking—from hors d’oeuvre, soups and salads to sides and main dishes. Beans can be cooked or sprouted, ground into flour, curdled into tofu or fermented into soy sauce, tempeh and miso. Some can be eaten raw.

Perhaps our most convenient food, beans can be dried and stored for years. Soaking them for several hours restores their freshness, activating the enzymes, minerals, proteins and vitamins.

Then, cook away! From bean dip and bean crostini as hors d’oeuvre to bean soup, bean salad and beans tossed into salads. Where would chili and stews be without beans, not to mention thousands of bean side and main dishes and red bean ice cream?

As for the “flatulence factor,” try this trick:

  • Change the water several times while you’re soaking the beans, and rinse them for a final time before cooking with them.
  • This helps to eliminate the indigestible complex sugars that create intestinal gas.

The article continues  below with bean nutrition.


This is Page 2 of a four-page review. Click on the black links below to visit other pages:


Bean Nutrition

Beans are packed with protein (most beans are at least 20% protein), B vitamins, calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium and potassium. They’re fiber-rich: about 8 grams of fiber per half cup (nearly a third of one’s daily value). They’re low in fat and are cholesterol-free. While beans have a good amount of carbohydrate, these are good carbs (unrefined). The government and nutritionists counsel us to eat more beans.

Soybeans are complete proteins, which means that they supply the same essential nutrition as meat or seafood. Most beans are “almost” complete proteins: They contain all of the essential amino acids* required to make protein, except for one, methionine.

However, this “missing” amino acid is present in grain. So eating bread, cereal, corn, pasta, rice or other grain-based food on the same day supplies methionine. This is how a “rice and beans” diet has sustained poor communities whose people don’t often have meat or fish.

Canned Beans

Canned beans are pre-cooked, so they make it quick and easy to prepare bean dishes, although they’re less flavorful than dried beans. A more important issue is the sodium level.

Look for low-sodium or salt-free brands. Low sodium is defined as having 140mg or less sodium per half-cup serving. Natural foods and health foods stores are good places to look if your supermarket doesn’t carry them.

Old Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo.

If you do have high-sodium canned beans, soaking them or rinsing them in cold water will remove some of the salt.


*Eight essential amino acids are not synthesized by the human body, so they must be consumed in food. They are not more important to life than the other amino acids, but are “essential” to include in one’s diet for health and well-being. The eight include isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Additional amino acids are essential for growth in infants and children.

Continue To Page 3: Buying Heirloom Beans

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