Beans… More than a Children's Rhyme
November 4th, 2010 - By Lari Robling
Dried beans are known as a superfood — a nutritional plant powerhouse of proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus, they fill us up which makes them a great way to use a little meat as a flavor agent instead of a main dish, or a perfect ingredient for Meatless Monday.
Canned beans are an easy staple to have in the pantry — just rinse and drain before you add to your dish. Don’t overlook starting from scratch with dried beans, though. It takes a little more planning but the texture and flavor profile is worth it. My grandmother used to cover her beans with water and soak them overnight, but I find the quick soak method works well, too. Cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to re-hydrate for about an hour or so. Drain and follow your recipe from there.
And, about the children’s rhyme about the gassy nature of bean eating? In her book, "Beans," culinary educator Aliza Green notes that it is the complex sugar molecules known as oligosaccharides that can cause our musical bean interlude. Human enzymes don’t easily digest oligosaccharides so the job is left to intestinal bacteria which ultimately give off the gas.
There are about as many opinions on the subject of bean flatulence as there are beans. And some of them are, excuse me, full of beans. In general, though, the fresher the bean the less likely you are to have intestinal upset. If you soak your own dried beans, change the water several times, which helps leach out the oligosaccharides. And, if you aren’t used to bean consumption add them to your diet gradually in small quantities and drink plenty of water to ease digestion.
Lentils are the least likely to be offensive so I offer this recipe from my cookbook, Endangered Recipes.