June 13th-15th 2022 – Tickled to Beans

Said Rabbi Yona:
How did beans get their name?
They amuse the heart and tickle the intestines.

          – Yerushalmi Talmud

Beans just love moderation. As for the rest of their Legume family relatives, they just love extremes. Fava and peas thrive on frigid cold weather, while soybeans and black-eyed peas adore the scorching sun. The beans, however, seek weather that’s just warm enough and just ventilated enough – in essence, a transition-season climate. Which explains why beans are one of the only crops belonging to spring and autumn in our field, dropping in for a very short visit before the onerous summer heat prevails. This particular spring has been perfect for Ms. Bean: moderate and gentle with no major heatwaves. A true field day for the bean!

This spring we seeded three types of beans: green, yellow and light-green flat. You’ve met the first two in your boxes, cloaked in green or gold, summery, crunchy and delicious. The flat bean, Hilda, is climbing up the trellising net in our net house and will make her appearance a bit later.

When Rabbi Yona says that the bean (shu’it) is amusing (mesha’a’sha’at), he must have been referring to the black-eyed pea (lubia), which has been prevalent in the Middle East since way back when. In contrast, the common bean (or Phaseolous Vulgaris) originated in the tropical areas of the American continent, one of the “three sisters” of ancient American cuisine: corn, zucchini and beans. In those areas, peas were grown over 7,000 years ago, but until the discovery of America, no bean varieties were known in Europe.

Like the rest of the legumes, beans are an annual crop with butterfly-like flowers which become pods for the seeds to lie inside. There are many varieties of beans, which are divided into two categories. One is the fresh bean, eaten in the pod young and green (or yellow, purple, spotted). Fresh varieties include cylinder-like pods, wide or flat, thick or thin, and more. The fresh beans are not yet ripe and not hardened, making them soft and readily edible raw or after a short blanching.

The second variety is the dry bean, only harvested after the seeds are ripe, hard and full within the dry pod, which has to be peeled in order to extract the beans for use. Dry beans also come in a variety of colors and sizes: white, black, red, spotted, pink, brown and others. This bean must be cooked well and should also be soaked in water prior to cooking. As Rabbi Yona reminds us, it tickles the intestines…

Various beans grow differently. Many are bush variants: short and compact, yielding within a very short time, and that’s that (like our thin yellow or green beans.) Then there are the climbing types (like the Thai black-eyed pea), which have to be trellised upright and which take their time yielding (like the Thai black-eyed pea or the wide hilda we grow in the field. The bean’s tendency to climb brought it much respect in ancient American farming, as one of the “Three Sisters.” Archeologists have frequently found ancient Peruvian and Mexican farming sites with remnants of bean seeds together with those of corn and squash. The bean was seeded together with the corn and squash, while the corn plants were used as trellising poles for the climbing bean. The squash covers the earth as a living mulch that serves to prevent weeds and water drainage, and the bean fixates nitrogen (see explanation below,) providing nutrients for both of her sisters:

3sisters

An interesting fact regarding the differences in growth of the two types of beans is that the climbing and bush species apparently developed separately and in parallel by different farmers in different areas. In Peru the cornfields were limited, making a climbing-specie an additional burden for local farmers needing to support the climbing plants. Thus, Peruvian farmers must have chosen to raise plants from seeds that grew in the form of a bush, and those were the species that developed there. The bushy species developed in Peru contain a gene that makes them grow in miniature form by limiting the number of branch segments, while turning the plant tissues (the branches and leaves) to reproductive tissues (flowers and pods). In contrast, in Mexico, the farmers chose to grow species that tended to crawl, since the bean grew near the corn that was used as a natural trellising pole, saving extra work for the farmer. In contrast, in Mexico, the farmers chose to grow species that tended to crawl, since the bean grew near the corn that was used as a natural trellising pole, saving extra work for the farmer.

The climbing beanpole was immortalized by the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, the story of a poor boy who climbs a huge beanstalk that he grew from magic seeds, embarking on a search for his identity. Via the beanstalk, he finally finds happiness and wealth, and of course triumphs over evil.

The bean is indeed magical in another sense: as a member of the legume family, it has many characteristics that help improve the earth. In a symbiotic process with the Resovia bacteria, it can fixate nitrogen from the atmosphere and store it in the earth in a form that is available to plants that grow simultaneously or afterwards. The bean’s long roots grasp the earth and assist in preventing erosion, a feature that makes it very easy to grow, as it will cling well to difficult and barren earth.

In South America these qualities make the local plant “worth its weight in gold.” The Mucuna bean is seeded in Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and other places in small, local farms, on the slopes of rocky mountains as a “cover crop.” The plants are cut and left in place while still green, and the next crops (specifically corn), are planted in the organic matter. The result is a doubling and even tripling of the corn yield, and an improvement of the soil for years to come. Indeed, a magic bean!

Beans are high-nutrient vegetables. Dry beans are rich in protein stored within their pods, while the fresh, youthful beans contain a lot less protein, and thus, in nutritional terms are not considered “plant-based protein.” Not to worry – fresh beans have lots of other great virtues: an excellent source of vitamins C, K and manganese, they are rich in dietary fibers, potassium, folic acid and carotenoids (pro vitamin A.) In addition, fresh beans contain a good quantity of magnesium, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B.

Beans can be – of course – cooked, steamed, roasted, pickled, added to pasta, rice, salad and any vegetable stir-fry to add taste, color and festivity to your meal. Bon appetite!

My we enjoy a “tickling” pleasant summery week!

 Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

 Monday: Cherry tomatoes, yellow or green beans/garlic, parsley/coriander, potatoes, beets, parsley root/scallions/onions, lettuce, acorn squash/spaghetti squash, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus,

melon/watermelon. FREE GIFT IN SMALL BOXES: Basil/ dill

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, zucchini, eggplant/butternut squash/slice of pumpkin.

FRUIT BOXES:  Peaches, avocados, bananas, nectarines, cherries.

Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes, yellow or green beans/garlic, parsley/coriander, potatoes, zucchini, beets/carrots, lettuce, acorn squash/butternut squash/slice of pumpkin, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon. FREE GIFT IN SMALL BOXES: Basil/dill

Large box, in addition: Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, parsley root/scallions, eggplant/onions.

FRUIT BOXES:  Peaches, avocados, bananas, nectarines, cherries.