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A bean is the seed of several plants in the family
Fabaceae The Fabaceae or Leguminosae,International Code of Nomenc ...
, which are used as vegetables for human or animal food. They can be cooked in many different ways, including boiling, frying, and baking, and are used in many traditional dishes throughout the world.


Terminology

The word "bean" and its Germanic
cognate In historical linguistics, cognates or lexical cognates are sets of words in different languages that have been inherited in direct descent from an etymological ancestor in a common parent language. Because language change can have radical ...
s (e.g. German '' Bohne'') have existed in common use in West Germanic languages since before the 12th century, referring to broad beans,
chickpea The chickpea or chick pea (''Cicer arietinum'') is an annual plant, annual legume of the family (biology), family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Its different types are variously known as gram" or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, or Egypti ...
s, and other pod-borne seeds. This was long before the
New World The term ''New World'' is often used to mean the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas."America." ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'' (). McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 3 ...
genus '' Phaseolus'' was known in Europe. After Columbian-era contact between Europe and the Americas, use of the word was extended to pod-borne seeds of ''Phaseolus'', such as the common bean and the runner bean, and the related genus '' Vigna''. The term has long been applied generally to many other seeds of similar form, such as Old World
soybean The soybean, soy bean, or soya bean (''Glycine max'') is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean, which has numerous uses. Traditional unfermented food uses of soybeans include soy milk, from which tofu and ...
s, peas, other vetches, and lupins, and even to those with slighter resemblances, such as coffee beans, vanilla beans, castor beans, and cocoa beans. Thus the term "bean" in general usage can refer to a host of different species. Seeds called "beans" are often included among the crops called "pulses" (
legume A legume () is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or the fruit or seed of such a plant. When used as a dry grain, the seed is also called a pulse. Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for human consumption, for livestock for ...
s), although the words are not always interchangeable (usage varies by plant variety and by region). Both terms, ''beans'' and ''pulses'', are usually reserved for grain crops and thus exclude those legumes that have tiny seeds and are used exclusively for non-grain purposes ( forage, hay, and silage), such as
clover Clover or trefoil are common names for plants of the genus ''Trifolium'' (from Latin ''tres'' 'three' + ''folium'' 'leaf'), consisting of about 300 species In biology, a species is the basic unit of Taxonomy (biology), classification and a ...
and alfalfa. The United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)french: link=no, Organisation des Nations unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture; it, Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per l'Alimentazione e l'Agricoltura is an intern ...
defines "BEANS, DRY" (item code 176) as applicable only to species of ''Phaseolus''. This is one of various examples of how narrower word senses enforced in trade regulations or
botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Ancient Greek wo ...
often coexist in
natural language In neuropsychology, linguistics, and philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has linguistic evolution, evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditati ...
with broader senses in culinary use and general use; other common examples are the narrow sense of the word ''nut'' and the broader sense of the word ''nut'', and the fact that tomatoes are fruit, botanically speaking, but are often treated as vegetables in culinary and general usage. Relatedly, another detail of usage is that several species of plants that are sometimes called beans, including ''Vigna angularis'' ( azuki bean), ''mungo'' ( black gram), ''radiata'' ( green gram), and ''aconitifolia'' ( moth bean), were once classified as ''Phaseolus'' but later reclassified—but the taxonomic revision does not entirely stop the use of well-established senses in general usage.


Cultivation

Unlike the closely related pea, beans are a summer crop that needs warm temperatures to grow. Legumes are capable of
nitrogen fixation Nitrogen fixation is a chemical process by which molecular nitrogen (), with a strong triple covalent bond, in the Atmosphere of Earth, air is converted into ammonia () or related nitrogenous compounds, typically in soil or aquatic systems but al ...
and hence need less fertiliser than most plants. Maturity is typically 55–60 days from planting to harvest. As the bean pods mature, they turn yellow and dry up, and the beans inside change from green to their . As a , bean plants need external support, which may take the form of special "bean cages" or poles. Native Americans customarily grew them along with corn and squash (the so-called Three Sisters), with the tall acting as support for the beans. In more recent times, the so-called "bush bean" has been developed which does not require support and has all its pods develop simultaneously (as opposed to pole beans which develop gradually). This makes the bush bean more practical for commercial production.


History

Beans were an important source of
protein Proteins are large biomolecules and macromolecules that comprise one or more long chains of amino acid residue (biochemistry), residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including Enzyme catalysis, catalysing metabo ...
throughout Old and New World history, and still are today. Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants in history. , also called fava beans, are in their wild state the size of a small fingernail, and were first gathered in
Afghanistan Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,; prs, امارت اسلامی افغانستان is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia, it is bordere ...

Afghanistan
and the Himalayan foothills. An early cultivated form were grown in Thailand from the early seventh millennium BCE, predating ceramics. Beans were deposited with the dead in
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the ...

ancient Egypt
. Not until the second millennium BCE did cultivated, large-seeded broad beans appear in the Aegean region, , and transalpine Europe. In the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; "a poem about Ilium") is one of two major ancient Greek Epic poem, epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by modern audiences. As with t ...

Iliad
'' (8th century BCE), there is a passing mention of beans and
chickpea The chickpea or chick pea (''Cicer arietinum'') is an annual plant, annual legume of the family (biology), family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Its different types are variously known as gram" or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, or Egypti ...
s cast on the threshing floor. The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in
Peru , image_flag = Flag of Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo nacional del Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (emblem), National seal , national_motto = "Fi ...

Peru
, and dated to around the second millennium BCE. However, genetic analyses of the common bean ''Phaseolus'' show that it originated in
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in southern North America and most of Central America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Withi ...
, and subsequently spread southward, along with
maize Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn (North American English, North American and Australian English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples of Mexico, indigenous ...

maize
and squash, traditional companion crops. Most of the kinds of beans commonly eaten today are part of the genus ''Phaseolus'', which originated in the Americas. The first European to encounter them was
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, link=no, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was a ...

Christopher Columbus
, while exploring what may have been the , and saw them growing in fields. Five kinds of '' Phaseolus'' beans were domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples: common beans ('''') grown from Chile to the northern part of what is now the United States; and lima and sieva beans ('' P. lunatus''); as well as the less widely distributed teparies ('' P. acutifolius''), scarlet runner beans ('' P. coccineus''), and polyanthus beans. One well-documented use of beans by pre-Columbian people as far north as the Atlantic seaboard is the " Three Sisters" method of companion plant cultivation: Many tribes would grow beans together with
maize Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn (North American English, North American and Australian English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples of Mexico, indigenous ...

maize
(corn), and squash. The corn would not be planted in rows as is done by European agriculture, but in a checkerboard/hex fashion across a field, in separate patches of one to six stalks each. Beans would be planted around the base of the developing stalks, and would vine their way up as the stalks grew. All American beans at that time were vine plants; "bush beans" were cultivated more recently. The cornstalks would work as a trellis for the bean plants, and the beans would provide much-needed
nitrogen Nitrogen is the chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol N and atomic number 7. Nitrogen is a nonmetal and the lightest member of pnictogen, group 15 of the periodic table, often called the pnictogens. It is a common element in the ...

nitrogen
for the corn. Squash would be planted in the spaces between the patches of corn in the field. They would be provided slight shelter from the sun by the corn, would shade the soil and reduce evaporation, and would deter many animals from attacking the corn and beans because their coarse, hairy vines and broad, stiff leaves are difficult or uncomfortable for animals such as deer and raccoons to walk through, crows to land on, and are a deterrent to other animals as well. Beans were cultivated across Chile in Pre-Hispanic times, likely as far south as Chiloé Archipelago. Dry beans come from both Old World varieties of broad beans (fava beans) and New World varieties (kidney, black, cranberry, pinto, navy/haricot).


Common genera and species

Currently, the world gene banks hold about 40,000 bean varieties, although only a fraction are mass-produced for regular consumption. Most of the foods we call "beans", "legumes", "lentils" and "pulses" belong to the same family,
Fabaceae The Fabaceae or Leguminosae,International Code of Nomenc ...
("leguminous" plants), but are from different genera and species, native to different homelands and distributed worldwide depending on their adaptability. Many varieties are eaten both fresh (the whole pod, and the immature beans may or may not inside) or shelled (immature seeds, mature and fresh seeds, or mature and dried seeds). Numerous legumes look similar, and have become naturalized in locations across the world, which often lead to similar names for different species.


Properties


Nutrients

Beans are high in
protein Proteins are large biomolecules and macromolecules that comprise one or more long chains of amino acid residue (biochemistry), residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including Enzyme catalysis, catalysing metabo ...
, complex carbohydrates, folate, and
iron Iron () is a chemical element with Symbol (chemistry), symbol Fe (from la, Wikt:ferrum, ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 element, group 8 of the periodic table. It is, Abundance ...

iron
. Beans also have significant amounts of fiber and soluble fiber, with one cup of cooked beans providing between 9 and 13 grams of fiber.Mixed Bean Salad
(information and recipe) fro
The Mayo Clinic Healthy Recipes
. Accessed February 2010.
Soluble fiber can help lower blood
cholesterol Cholesterol is any of a class of certain organic compound, organic molecules called lipids. It is a sterol (or chemical modification, modified steroid), a type of lipid. Cholesterol is biosynthesis, biosynthesized by all animal Cell (biology)# ...

cholesterol
. The Canadian government recommends that adults have up to two (female), and three (male) servings. 3/4 cup of cooked beans provide one serving.


Antinutrients

Many types of bean like kidney bean contain significant amounts of antinutrients that inhibit some enzyme processes in the body. and phytates, present in grains, nuts, seeds and beans, interfere with bone growth and interrupt vitamin D metabolism. Pioneering work on the effect of phytic acid was done by Edward Mellanby from 1939.


Health concerns


Toxins

Some kinds of raw beans contain a harmful, tasteless toxin: the lectin phytohaemagglutinin, which must be removed by cooking. Red kidney beans are particularly toxic, but other types also pose risks of food poisoning. Many types of beans contain lectins, and kidney beans have the highest concentrations – especially red kidney beans. As few as 4 or 5 raw beans can cause severe stomachache, vomiting and diarrhoea. A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least ten minutes; under-cooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans. Cooking beans, without bringing them to a boil, in a slow cooker at a temperature well below boiling may not destroy toxins. A case of poisoning by butter beans used to make
falafel Falafel (; ar, فلافل, ) is a Deep frying, deep-fried ball or patty-shaped fritter in Middle Eastern cuisine (especially in Levantine cuisine, Levantine and Egyptian cuisine, Egyptian cuisines) made from ground chickpeas, Vicia faba, b ...

falafel
was reported; the beans were used instead of traditional s or
chickpea The chickpea or chick pea (''Cicer arietinum'') is an annual plant, annual legume of the family (biology), family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Its different types are variously known as gram" or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, or Egypti ...
s, soaked and ground without boiling, made into patties, and shallow fried. Bean poisoning is not well known in the medical community, and many cases may be misdiagnosed or never reported; figures appear not to be available. In the case of the UK National Poisons Information Service, available only to health professionals, the dangers of beans other than red beans were not flagged .
Fermentation Fermentation is a metabolism, metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic Substrate (chemistry), substrates through the action of enzymes. In biochemistry, it is narrowly defined as the extraction of energy from carbohydrates in ...
is used in some parts of Africa to improve the nutritional value of beans by removing toxins. Inexpensive fermentation improves the nutritional impact of flour from dry beans and improves digestibility, according to research co-authored by Emire Shimelis, from the Food Engineering Program at Addis Ababa University. Beans are a major source of dietary
protein Proteins are large biomolecules and macromolecules that comprise one or more long chains of amino acid residue (biochemistry), residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including Enzyme catalysis, catalysing metabo ...
in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.


Bacterial infection from bean sprouts

It is common to make s by letting some types of bean, often
mung bean The mung bean (''Vigna radiata''), alternatively known as the green gram, maash ( fa, ماش٫ )٫ mūng (), monggo, or munggo (Philippines), is a plant species in the Fabaceae, legume family.Brief Introduction of Mung Bean. Vigna Radiata ...
s, germinate in moist and warm conditions; beansprouts may be used as ingredients in cooked dishes, or eaten raw or lightly cooked. There have been many outbreaks of disease from bacterial contamination, often by ''
salmonella ''Salmonella'' is a genus of bacillus (shape), rod-shaped (bacillus) Gram-negative bacteria of the family Enterobacteriaceae. The two species of ''Salmonella'' are ''Salmonella enterica'' and ''Salmonella bongori''. ''S. enterica'' is the type s ...
'', ''
listeria ''Listeria'' is a genus of bacteria that acts as an intracellular parasite in mammals. Until 1992, 17 species were known, each containing two subspecies. By 2020, 21 species had been identified. The genus is named in honour of the British pio ...
'', and ''
Escherichia coli ''Escherichia coli'' (),Wells, J. C. (2000) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow ngland Pearson Education Ltd. also known as ''E. coli'' (), is a Gram-negative bacteria, Gram-negative, Facultative anaerobic organism, facultative anaer ...
'', of beansprouts not thoroughly cooked, some causing significant mortality.


Flatulence

Many edible beans, including broad beans, navy beans, kidney beans and soybeans, contain
oligosaccharide An oligosaccharide (/ˌɑlɪgoʊˈsækəˌɹaɪd/; from the Greek wikt:ὀλίγος#Ancient Greek, ὀλίγος ''olígos'', "a few", and σάκχαρ ''sácchar'', "sugar") is a carbohydrate, saccharide polymer containing a small number (typical ...
s (particularly
raffinose Raffinose is a trisaccharide composed of galactose, glucose, and fructose. It can be found in beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, other vegetables, and whole grains. Raffinose can be hydrolysis, hydrolyzed to D-galactose and su ...
and stachyose), a type of sugar molecule also found in
cabbage Cabbage, comprising several cultivars of ''Brassica oleracea'', is a leafy green, red (purple), or white (pale green) biennial plant grown as an Annual plant, annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. It is descended from the wild cabb ...
. An anti-oligosaccharide
enzyme Enzymes () are proteins that act as biological catalysts by accelerating chemical reactions. The molecules upon which enzymes may act are called substrate (chemistry), substrates, and the enzyme converts the substrates into different molecule ...
is necessary to properly digest these sugar molecules. As a normal human digestive tract does not contain any anti-oligosaccharide enzymes, consumed oligosaccharides are typically digested by
bacteria Bacteria (; singular: bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one biological cell. They constitute a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometre The micrometre (Amer ...
in the large intestine. This digestion process produces gases, such as methane as a byproduct, which are then released as
flatulence Flatulence, in humans, is the expulsion of gas from the Gastrointestinal tract, intestines via the anus, commonly referred to as farting. "Flatus" is the medical word for gas generated in the stomach or bowels. A proportion of intestinal gas m ...
.


Production

The production data for legumes are published by FAO in three categories: # Pulses dry: all mature and dry seeds of leguminous plants except soybeans and groundnuts. # Oil crops: soybeans and groundnuts. # Fresh vegetable: immature green fresh fruits of leguminous plants. The following is a summary of FAO data. Main crops of "Pulses, Total (dry)" are "Beans, dry 76 26.83 million tons, "Peas, dry 87 14.36 million tons, "Chick peas 91 12.09 million tons, "Cow peas 95 6.99 million tons, "Lentils 01 6.32 million tons, "Pigeon peas 97 4.49 million tons, "Broad beans, horse beans 81 4.46 million tons. In general, the consumption of pulses per capita has been decreasing since 1961. Exceptions are lentils and cowpeas. The world leader in production of dry beans ('' Phaseolus'' spp), is India, followed by Myanmar (Burma) and Brazil. In Africa, the most important producer is Tanzania.FA
Pulses and Derived Products
No symbol = official figure, P = official figure, F = FAO estimate, * = unofficial/semi-official/mirror data, C = calculated figure A = aggregate (may include official, semi-official or estimates) ''Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)''


See also

*
Baked beans Baked beans is a Dish (food), dish traditionally containing white beans that are parboiling, parboiled and then, in the US, baking, baked in sauce at low temperature for a lengthy period. In the United Kingdom, the dish is sometimes baked, but u ...
* Jelly beans * Mexican jumping bean *
List of bean soups This is a list of notable bean soups, characterized by soups that use beans as a primary ingredient. Bean soups * 15 Bean Soup – a packaged dry bean soup mix produced by the N.K. Hurst Co. in the United States * Amish preaching soup – in ...
** Fassoulada – a bean soup * List of edible seeds *
List of legume dishes This is a list of legume dishes. A legume is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or the fruit or seed of such a plant. Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for their food grain seed (e.g. beans and lentils, or generally pulse ...


References


Bibliography

*


External links


Everett H. Bickley Collection, 1919–1980
Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.


Fermentation improves nutritional value of beans


{{Authority control Edible legumes Pod vegetables Staple foods Vegan cuisine Vegetarian cuisine Crops Plant common names