Behind Mr. Beans’ Back Door

The many faces of Mr. Beans

The many faces of Mr. Beans

“Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
Beans, beans at every meal!”

The good news

I love you, Mr. Beans, especially on this blustery, cold March day. Your down-home taste spiked with bacon, tomato, and maple syrup fills me up nicely. And your hearty goodness gives me the energy I need to take me through the day… not to mention the awesome protein, fibre, iron and calcium you put into my tank while you’re at it. But why so much gas? That makes you just so unpleasant!

The bad news

Our stomach doesn’t have the right stuff to digest beans’ unique fibre. So it moves untouched into our large intestine… where hungry bacteria break it into bits called short-chain fatty acids. These fats nourish the intestinal lining and protect it from invaders that could cause cancer. Tomato sauce deserves some of the credit here, too. Tomatoes partner with beans in our bowel by providing lycopene, another powerful foe of  heart disease and prostate cancer. But, sadly, when bacteria play with those short-chain fats, they produce nasty gases that nobody likes.

Keeping the gas turned down low

At this point, I would likely have thanked Mr. Beans for being such a super food, and tasty, too. But I wondered how Good could overcome the Bad  in this hearty plant food?

Well, if you want to keep the wicked gases at bay, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Soak, soak, soak. For each pound of dried beans, use ten or more cups of boiling water. Boil for ten minutes, cover, and set the beans aside overnight. The heat breaks down the bean skins, releasing the guilty party into the soaking water. Throw out the soaking water, and voila! No more gas. Use fresh water to continue the cooking as directed in your recipe.
  2. Wait until the beans are soft before you add tomatoes, molasses, and salty things etc. to the pot, because acids and salt in these added ingredients keep your beans from softening. Soft beans are more easily digested.
  3. If you’re desperate, add 1 tablespoon of epazote to a large pot of beans. The leaf of this wild herb is prized for its gas-reducing talents. I haven’t tried this. Let me know if it works for you? Adding a few drops of Beano to the pot just before serving does work, as long as you aren’t diabetic. Read the package for cautions.

Prepare yourself for the UGLY

If you think a little wind is bad news, you may be shocked to learn that big trouble is lurking in the heart of even the most charming bean.  Raw Kidney beans, the star of chili dishes, contain a kind of sugar that makes people violently ill. Kidney beans must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before using them in your recipe, to break the sugar molecules down into harmless components. Never add raw kidney beans to a slow cooker, either, as the pot doesn’t gets hot enough to destroy the dangerous sugars. Three raw kidney beans is all it takes to make you seriously sick.

Lima beans are nearly as bad. Just a handful of raw limas can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The good news is… boiling them as just described takes away their sting.

But the biggest villain of all is a bean that attracts with its beauty but is never grown as food. A recent episode of The Mentalist had Lisbon and Jane nosing around the kitchen of a celebrity chef who met his end during a chef’s cook-off. Castor beans mysteriously turn up in the house of one of the rival chefs… and lo and behold a poison called ricin is found in the victim’s hot pepper bottle. Jane reveals that ricin comes from the castor bean and explains just how the chef was done in. Many gardeners proudly grow the castor bean plant for its large leaves and bright red flowers. But beware of its beans. They are lethal if mistakenly eaten.

All kinds of beans can be had in cans


So now you know all about the good, the bad, and the ugly lurking within the innocuous Mr. Beans.  But treated with respect, beans makes meals both hearty and healthy.

Here are a few recipes, if you feel like venturing beyond the canned variety of baked beans, which by the way do just about as nicely but are more expensive than if you started from scratch:

So there you have it… Everything you never wanted to know about beans (but should).

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chef mimi
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 16:43:56

    Great info. I had no idea about lethal beans, so interesting. I also think that the more often you not only eat beans but lots of foods with fiber, you have less of a gassy reaction. I nearly killed a couple once just baking them a healthy, fiber-rich bread. at least, they thought they were dying, until i found out how poor their every day diets were! they recovered.


    • Vinny Grette
      Apr 13, 2015 @ 19:00:44

      So true, Mimi. My diet has been low on fiber – I have to make an effort because I don’t eat much bread or cereal. I have discovered chia seeds, though, and love them. I eat nuts and veggies and fruit as well :). Glad you liked the bean post!


  2. Anita Mac
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 12:48:55

    Love your writing style! Looking forward to reading more…just subscribed now.


    • Vinny Grette
      Dec 09, 2012 @ 16:34:38

      Hi Anita – Thanks for your kind words! As it turns out, you are my 400th follower. I’ve promised a free copy of my book “Cook Up A Story” to that lucky person. If you’re interested, perhaps you can contact me through email so I can send you a copy. You don’t by any chance live in Ottawa, do you? (Saw review of Montebello and the war memorial…). If so, maybe we can meet somewhere and save me a hefty postage.


  3. aroundlisastable
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:38:04

    Love your blog! Perfect for those of us cooking with kids.


  4. justbetweencousins
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 09:35:16

    I loved the use of humor mixed with the right amount of information. I learned from this article and thank you for that.
    Peach State


  5. motheronedge
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 15:41:13

    That was so much fun to read & informative too!


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