As we roll into March, and into Spring, we wanted to tackle an ingredient that may be broader than we’ve chosen in January (leeks) and February (cumin) but that we believe still belongs together in a category. Don’t worry, this is as broad as we’ll go – no “meat” month (although that’d be delicious!) or “fruit” month (though we’ve been tossing around the idea of a “stone fruit” month.) Sometimes broader categories can help you figure out exactly what the category is all about. You think “Oh yes! Beans, I love a bean.” But where do they come from? How do they grow? Who eats ’em, anyways? Are coffee beans really beans? And cocoa beans? Wait, what about GREEN beans?
I know, we had all of those questions, too! So first thing’s first. Coffee and cocoa beans, some of our favorites, are not truly beans at all. Coffee beans are the fruit off a flowering tree. And cocoa beans are seeds from an evergreen tree. Green beans are unripe beans, usually common beans.
Which brings us to this month’s real ingredient: the common bean. These include a lot of the basic beans you and I eat: navy, pinto, black, kidney. This is the bean we’re looking to focus on. These beans were introduced to Europe in the 15th century, where they then spread to the rest of the world by way of Spanish explorers.
Part of the reason they were so popular was because they were inexpensive, and contained protein. In addition, they have fiber, iron, vitamin B1, and a whole slew of other nutritional value to make your heart happy (and healthy!)
Here are some pinto beans we added to a chili.
These common beans can be found all over the world, with Brazil and India leading the way in the dry bean production (how many common beans can be found!) Because of their versatility, these beans can be found in native dishes from Mexico to China. In fact, Navy beans got there name from the fact that the US Navy used them so much!
So what do we plan on making with these beans? Corelyn plans on delving into the world of what was that thing you were going to make? while I plan on heading to my roots and whipping up a escarole and bean soup that reminds me of my family and childhood. But please feel free to send suggestions our way for a third recipe – we love to hear from you!