“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 my tummy 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, Mr. Beans,” I have to ask,” Why so much gas? That’s something that’s really not pleasant to pass!”
The bad news
“There’s not much gain without some pain,” replies the humble Mr. Beans, who still hasn’t quite given up yet on verse, but is about to. “Your stomach doesn’t have the right stuff to digest my fibre. So it moves untouched into your large intestine… where hungry bacteria break it into bits called short-chain fatty acids. These fats nourish the intestinal lining and protect it from evil invaders that could cause cancer.” Mr. Beans stops for a minute to take a breath. “Miss Tomato Sauce deserves some of the credit,” he continues. “She partners with me in your bowel by giving you lycopene, another powerful foe of heart disease and prostate cancer. That’s the good news.” Mr. Beans looks down modestly. “But, sadly, when bacteria play with these fats, they produce those nasty gases 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?
It seems though that if you want to keep the wicked gases at bay, there are a few things you can do.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 there can be even more evil 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. Never add them raw to a slow cooker, either, as the pot doesn’t gets hot enough to destroy the scoundrel. Three raw kidney beans is all it takes to do the harmful deed.
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 unfortunate 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 dastardly 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.
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:
- Best middle-of-the-road chili recipe of all time
- Easy oven-baked beans (they’re low on sugar and zapped with a touch of yummy bacon)
- Old-fashioned baked beans (try using less sugar than this recipe calls for…)
So there you have it… Everything you never wanted to know about beans (but should).