Macrobiotics #6: 10 things you might not know about beans

1.) Did you know that you don’t need to soak beans? Macrobiotics teacher and cookbook author Christina Pirello was once challenged to a cook-off. The tiny Italian grandmother told her people would get indigestion eating soaked beans. When their cook-off was through, Gran’s beans tasted richer, and no one became “musical” after the meal. Since soaking also removes some flavor and enzymes, and starting with dry beans took only minutes longer to cook, Christina has stopped soaking beans before cooking them.

If you feel you must soak, Christina says an hour will do it – don’t waste time planning farther ahead. The traditional Quick Soak is boil water and beans 2-5 minutes, then cover, take off heat and let sit at room temperature four hours. The long soak is 8-9 hours at room temperature, I.E. overnight. For many people, a short soak gets rid of indigestible sugars that lead to Musical beans. The long soak doesn’t help the music side effect, but the beans hold shape better.

2.) Before cooking beans, place a stamp-sized piece of kombu (a seaweed) or one bay leaf per cup of beans on the bottom of the pot. They will mineralize and soften your beans, making both fat and protein more accessible to your body.

3.) When you bring the beans to a boil, let them roll and froth for at least five minutes. This will add to the digestibility of the beans, and will cook away the majority of the gas from the beans. No more bean chorus!

4.) Also when you boil beans, skim the froth off the top of the water. Many people find the froth leaves an off taste in the final product. The beans will also be more digestible without the foam.

5.) Do not add salt to the beans until after they’re done cooking. If you then salt them a bit, your result will be soft beans. You want to make them mashed or refried? Don’t salt them.

6.) Do not cook adzuki beans in a pressure cooker. They may become bitter. (Otherwise, adzuki are great little beans, among the most easily digested.)

7.) When cooking, simmer the beans after that five-minute boil. Simmering gives you a better chance of the skins not splitting.

8.) Canned organic beans are okay in a pinch – just remember to drain the water from the can and rinse the beans well. You don’t want stale-tasting water ruining your beans!

9.) Beans can last for years if stored in a tight-lid glass container and kept in a cool, dry place.Try one dry bay leaf in the container, to add to freshness.

10.) Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber. Black-eyed peas kept the southerners from starving after Sherman’s March to the Sea. Black-eyed peas were used as food for pigs, but their high protein level (over 10 g. per serving) meant they were valuable for anyone. Sherman’s troops destroyed everything else, but the lowly black-eyed pea vines, with scant leaves, were ignored.

Have fun with beans! From hummus appetizers to Red beans & Rice, beans are tasty, colorful, nutritious and inexpensive! They are the cheapest protein you’ll probably find. These tips may not work every time for every cook, but I’m planning to test these suggestions (except the pressure cooker. Don’t have one, not positive I should get one. But that’s another story. . . .)


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