Cooking with Beans
Preparation and Digestion Tips

Beans in Bowl

Cooking with Beans

Funny food

It’s probably safe to say that no food has been the subject of more humor than beans. There is an amusing line in a western story where one cowboy queries the other about what’s for dinner. “Well,” the old geezer drawls, “last night we had beans ‘n hardtack and tonight we’ll be havin’ hardtack n’ beans!” Of course, there is also that famous scene from the movie "Blazing Saddles" that revolves around the digestive effects of eating beans.

For some reason, beans have generally been considered the “low-class” members of our food supply. If you want to characterize a meal as not only monotonous, but also cheap, it will often consist of some form of beans.

Cooking with beans, an inexpensive source of nutrients.

There is no question that beans are an economical choice for your food budget. What you may have missed is that they are also a nutritious choice, since they are loaded with nutrients including protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Digestion tips when cooking with beans

However, you may be avoiding eating beans due to the effect they can have on your digestive system. While this is a concern, and maybe even a deterrent, there are some things you can do to avoid the discomfort that may accompany including beans in your diet.

-If you are not used to eating legumes, introduce them slowly. It is normal for everyone to produce some gas during digestion, but it should not be painful, putrid or pervasive.

-When using canned beans, discard the juice and rinse the beans before use.

-If you are using dry beans, throw out the soaking water (or use the water for your plants or garden), rinse before cooking and cook thoroughly.

-Eat slowly, chew your food well, and don’t overeat.

-Try taking enzyme products, like “Beano,” right before you eat. This may help to alleviate gas problems by helping digestion.

-Add some fennel to your beans (or chew some fennel seeds later, should you feel any adverse effects from eating legumes or any other foods). I have also heard that adding summer savory, dill or anise to your beans will help, but I have never tried these myself. Use about one teaspoon per cup of dry beans.

Warning: Fennel seeds should not be taken in large doses by pregnant women, since they are a uterine stimulant.

Tips for Cooking with Beans

In addition to these tips for avoiding digestive problems, here are some other tips for cooking with beans and legumes:

-Dry beans should be sorted before cooking. This can be done by spreading the dry beans out and removing any foreign particles. 

-Most dry legumes, with the exception of split peas and lentils, need to be soaked before they are cooked.

There are two methods for doing this, and either method is effective. 

Fast-soak method 

Cover washed and sorted beans with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, and cover and let stand for one hour. Discard soaking water, rinse, cover with new water and cook as directed.** 

Note: This method seems to remove more of the gas-producing compounds.

Overnight method 

Cover washed and sorted beans with water and allow them to soak overnight. Then drain the water, rinse the beans, add more water and cook according to directions.**

**Check the description of each bean below for specific cooking times.

1 cup of dry beans will produce 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans.

-Do not salt the water until beans are done cooking. Salt will slow down the cooking time and toughen the bean coats. Other spices and vegetables may be added, however. 

-If beans are older and drier, with a wrinkled appearance, they will take longer to cook.

-If foam forms on top of the water when you are cooking beans, skim it off and continue cooking.

-Beans should be tender and the skins beginning to loosen when they are done. See particular bean for approximate cooking time.

-If you are using more than one variety of dry beans in a recipe, it is better to cook each type of bean separately, and then add them to your chili or other dish. This is because the beans will be fully cooked at different times, and you may end up with some overcooked, mushy beans or some under cooked, hard beans if you cook them all together.

-Cooked beans freeze very well, so you may want to cook larger batches of beans and then freeze some for quicker use in the future.



Four-Bean Chili


Lentil Soup

Split Pea Soup

Navy Bean Soup

Refried Beans

Cooking with beans - In short

Beans and legumes come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. They are economical and nutritious. With proper handling the potential digestive issues can be resolved. Try adding some beans to your healthy menu plans.

I don’t know about the hardtack, though.

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

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