Mostly, we need to change our attitude about where and how we use beans and get more creative. We can put some white bean flour in our bread and get a complete protein--plus the extra calcium found in white beans. (See "Do You Know Beans about Beans?", Ensign, June 1991, p.66) We can even bottle beans in our own jars (following USDA guidelines and using a pressure canner, please!) to have them on hand for quick, economical meals. We can make our own tofu with soybeans. We can crack beans as we would wheat, and we can sprout beans, both which considerably lessen cooking time. Our imagination is our only limit.
Another reason many of us limit our legume consumption is that we have flatulence (gas) when we eat legumes. Our bodies have lost the necessary enzymes that aid in digesting legumes because we eat so many highly refined foods. Here are several options to help, if not conquer, this problem:
- Sprouting beans ahead of time considerably reduces gas. "Dry Beans & Peas", Georgia Lauritzen, Cooperative Extension Service, Logan, UT. [This method requires several rinses of the beans each day so that they do not sour. Just put the beans in a colander and run water over them. I put a dishtowel over the top to keep them moist.)
- Discarding the soak water, even with a quick soak, and then rinsing the beans thoroughly is helpful to reduce gas.
- Start soaking your dry beans the night before you plan to eat them. Long soaks reduce gas. Then rinse well and use new water to cook the beans.
- Best and simplest is to regularly include in your diet small amounts of beans (at least 2-3 times a week). Gradually increasing your intake from very small amounts allows your body to get used to the legumes and grow the friendly bacteria needed to digest them.
We so often think of beans as a lowly alternative to meat, but then most of our experience in the west is with pinto or kidney beans in bean dip and burritos, plus navy beans in white bean soup. There truly is a whole world out there of beans to experience, with different flavors. Do a Google search to find out more about beans like Adzuki (from East Asia and the Himalayas), Flageolet (from France), Jacob’s Cattle (a spotted heirloom bean), Scarlet runner, Apaloosa, and Cannellini (from Italy). One of my favorite easy things with dry beans is to buy a bag with a variety of beans of different colors (a bean stew mix from the store) and follow the recipe on the bag. The stew is so pretty and tasty.
If you are a true beginner with dried beans, a great set of instructions is linked here.
The biggest secret to having success with dry beans? Simply plan in advance and try a few recipes from trusted sources like the Idaho Bean Commission, which has recipes for dry beans as well as canned beans. In fact, my first forays into dry beans, when I was first married, were with a recipe in hand from the Idaho Bean Council. Now, all their recipes are online and linked here. Enjoy!