I always have jars of them in my kitchen. They look so pretty, all colour and texture, shape and size! But the other day, after a visit with a friend during which she gifted me with these charmingly (and aptly) named Orca beans,
I got those jars out and took a new look at them. I think what always put me off about dried beans is the planning and time involved in preparing them. It always just seemed easier to open a can.
But now all I can think about is beans. Growing them. Soaking them. Simmering them. Sprouting them. Making them into delicious things: dips, soups, or baked beans! In addition to being nutritious, delicious, and versatile, they're cheap AND easy to grow! I got my Terra Edibles catalogue in the mail yesterday and will definitely be checking out their bean selection for this summer's garden.
Beans take care of themselves in the garden. If you just leave them on their stalks, they'll dry right up; for good measure, you can uproot the whole plant once they've dried, and hang them in your barn or basement to finish drying. Then your kids can help unveil the little treasures inside the pods! Store them for eating, and save a few for next year...what could be easier (besides, ahem, opening a can)?
In the past week I've made Black Bean Cilantro Dip (from Jae Steele's Get It Ripe), Yellow Split Pea Soup (from Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan), mung bean sprouts, and split pea and ham soup. Oh, and baked navy beans, too!
I find that soaking the beans overnight, then boiling for one to two hours softens them sufficiently for most recipes. In Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair recommends cooking your beans with a piece of the sea vegetable kombu. Sea vegetables aren't easy to come by in these parts, but apparently they soften the beans and reduce their flatulent effects!
That little handful of Orca beans made me feel like Jack must have when he bought the magic beans (before his mother berated him for his poor bargaining skills, of course).
Now I'm hooked on beans as I journey towards a healthier, more whole way of eating.