What means beans – A Culpepers’ story.

A brief lesson on beans, peas and lentils by Stephan De Jonghe 6th September 2019.

We all know of the fable of “The Jack and the beanstalk” Where jack throws the discarded magical beans and they grow into a giant beanstalk. Jack climbs the beanstalk, finds and enters the castle and that when the adventure really begins....

Why beans? Why not a Karri tree or a Redwood? It is easy to believe that these trees can grow tall enough to reach the clouds. So why use a bean?

Beans do grow quickly, and according to the fable, magical beans can grow very fast and reach very high into the clouds. They are strong too as they can carry the weight of a young man so perhaps beans were a good choice for the author.

Also, we can relate to beans. Beans, peas, lentils that make up the food category of pulse and they come from legumes.

What are they?

Technically speaking. A legume is a plant in the family Fabaceae, or the fruit or seed of such a plant. Legumes are grown agriculturally, primarily for human consumption, for livestock forage and silage, and as soil-enhancing green manure. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts, and tamarind. Legumes produce a botanically unique type of fruit – a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces on two sides. A common name for this type of fruit is a pod. Thanks Wikipedia. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

A pulse is a name used to describe the food group of beans, peas and lentils. The term 'pulse' is derived from the Latin pulse meaning seed or grain. A pod is the edible outer shell that contains the pulses.

Legumes are the plants that grow the pods that contain the pulses. A pulse also represents the tactile arterial palpation of the heartbeat. Eating pulses should help you maintain a healthy pulse. A pulse a day helps you pulse away…So to speak.

In India when a pulse is split in half, it’s call Dal or Dahl or Dhal.

There are over 40,000 varieties of beans! There are over 130 varieties of green beans. Due to differing regions and languages they often have two, three or more names for the same pulse.

Way back when…

The planting, harvesting and consumption of pulses goes back many thousands of years. They were widely recorded by ancient Egyptians and Greeks with the earliest known reference over 13,000 years ago.

The cultivation of pulses can be traced back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia grew peas, beans and lentils as far back as 8,000 BC, and researchers recently discovered evidence of faba beans cultivated in northern Israel over 10,000 years ago.

A 7th Century BCE recipe described chick peas in a soup. Some of the earliest recorded uses of legumes are for plants that are now extinct.

Some 5,000 years ago the ancient Aztecs, Incas of Central and South America cultivated what is now known as common beans. These include lima beans, red kidney beans, black beans and pintos.

At about that time, in North America the tribes were cultivating running or climbing beans.

During the exploration age of the 15th to 18th Centuries, when explorers and merchants sailed the world, the trade and consumption of pulses and pods became widespread. They were easy to propagate, harvest, dry and store and their food value was easily restored by soaking and cooking.

Oddly enough, this was also when the “bean name confusion” started. Christopher Columbus started it by incorrectly naming the plants he saw in Cuba with names of plants he knew from Spain. It has been a bean pain ever since.

2016 was the International year of the pulse.

In Niger they consume a whopping 35 kilos of pulses per year. In India it’s about 10kg but here in Australia it’s only about 1kg. Talk about potential for growth.

Interestingly enough, countries such as Australia, USA and Canada grow massive volumes of pulses but the locals don’t eat much of them. China and India grow massive volumes of pulses and they do eat a lot of them. They are so popular in China that they have to import pulses to keep up with demand.

Lentils are flavoursome, inexpensive and very nutritious. The public used to avoid them because they were cheap and considered a poor man’s food.

What’s cooking?

Pulses are used in a variety of ways. They can be cooked into soups, stews, casseroles, hot chilli dishes, baked beans. When chick peas are ground into a flour they make hummus. Lentil stews are becoming increasingly popular. Beans are often featured in a bean salad. The range of colours make them quite visually appealing.

A bit about health and nutrition.

It would seem that people who regularly eat beans avoid the windy issue as their digestive system has adapted to cope with it.

Pulses are generally high in protein but they tend to lack methionine. Methionine plays a critical role in the metabolism as it is an essential amino acid. Vegetarians should add seeds and grains to their diet, preferably together, in order to balance the protein.

Some beans are very toxic. Soak large beans for 8 hours and smaller beans for at least 2 hours in clean cold water, then rinse and cook for up to 60 minutes in an open pot will remove the toxicity. Stick with the beans that are sold as edible and prepare them properly or you may get cyanide poisoning. That wouldn’t be good.

The Culpeper range.

Culpepers stock and supply beans, peas and lentils to the WA food service industry. We also sell them via our mail order. www.culpepers.net.au.

Adzuki beans, Black Eye Beans, Black Turtle Beans, Blue Boiling Peas, Borlotti Beans, Cannellini (AKA Great Northern), Chick Peas, Fava Beans, Haricot Beans, (AKA Navy Beans), Lentils, green brown, red and yellow, Du Puy lentils, Lima Beans, Mung beans, Peas yellow and green splits, Red Kidney Bean, Urad Dahl (Chilka- skin on) and ( Dhuli - skinless). See the Culpepers’ website for more detailed information about each variety.

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