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 the extreme. Fava beans and peas thrive on frigid cold weather, while soy beans and black-eyed peas adore the scorching sun. The beans, however, seek weather that’s just warm enough and just ventilated enough – in essence, an in-between-season climate. Which explains why beans are one of the only crops to be associated with spring and autumn in our field, always dropping in for a very short visit timed to avoid the onerous summer heat or the winter chill that follows their autumn visit.
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, which is why they’re soft and can be eaten 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 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, red, spotted, 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 plants which yield within a very short time, and that’s that. Then there are the climbing types, which have to be trellised upright and which take their time yielding. 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:
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 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 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).
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 certain 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 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!
Wishing you all a good and amusing week. It is the last week of the Ramadan fast for the Aatzi family – Mohammed, Ali and Majdi.
May we enjoy a quiet, summery, joyful week!
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Parsley/coriander, butternut squash/slice of Provence pumpkin, lettuce, fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans/yellow beans, eggplant/melon, potatoes. Small boxes only: parsley root, beets.
Large box, in addition: Cucumbers, acorn squash, onions/garlic, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, corn.
Wednesday: Parsley/coriander, lettuce, cucumbers/fakus, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans/yellow beans/edamame (green soy), eggplant/beets, melon/mini watermelon, potatoes, corn. Small boxes only: parsley root.
Large box, in addition: Butternut squash/slice of Provence pumpkin, acorn squash, onions/garlic, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.
And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, sprouts, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, apple juice, cider and jams, dates silan and healthy snacks and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!