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Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you…

The song rang through my 8 year old head, I was leaving the camp cabin and it was the first time I remember myself being bullied.  I like beans, I always have and that evening we had cooked beans over the fire. They were exceptionally delicious and I had eaten them happily along with my other food.  Unfortunately, the inevitable tute came when I was in a room with 8 or 9 other campers.  My ears burned with embarrassment, followed by no more than a beat came the song.  I shouldn’t have been surprised it  wasn’t an unusually occurrence, in fact, every time someone tuted the gathered campers would rally back with a chores of the famous jingle.

Many years later when I became a vegetarian, the tuting came back.  This time, however, with a vengeance.  One of my friends from the time said it perfectly, “you can’t hide a vegetarian fart, they are just rank.”  Luckily for me, my cohort were all supportive bullies and it passed (eh-hem) in good fun.  Luckily for you, vegetarian bellies get use to the higher fiber content of the food and the majority of indigestion issues go away within the first year.

Ironically, beans are the first things we all sprout as a kid either in school or as part of an extracurricular.  We all watch in awe as our little bean stalk magically curls up from the soil, pushes off it’s shell and folds open into the perfect pair of leaves.  We usually didn’t grow them much longer after that, but beans are the second plant in MILPA, and equally hold a place of importance in the Mexican diet as well as world cultures.  There is hardly a place that doesn’t eat beans one way or another.

Perhaps that is why we all know the bean jingle so well, because beans are the cornerstone of a healthy diet.  What better oral history for passing information than song. Try it yourself, sing the whole song until the end. “Beans beans, the magical fruit…. The more you eat the more you tute… The more you tute, they better you feel.” That’s right, “let’s have beans for every meal!”

Bean Nutrition:

Firstly, these kernels are perfect for low fat, heart healthy diets because they only contain 2-3% fat.
They have no cholesterol.
Are extremely high in fiber.
Contain complex carbohydrates suitable for management of insulin resistance.
Are high in protein, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

Get more from your beans:
Honestly, you are likely going to be fine with protein but you should aim to eat beans in a pair as part of a complete protein with corn, quinoa, buckwheat, or brown rice.

However, it is pretty hard for us to absorb most of the iron in beans.  
I solve iron absorption in 2 ways.
First, I never drink green or black tea before I eat beans because tea inhibits iron absorption.  

Secondly, I always add a citrus or vitamin c rich foods to the meal.  It’s as easy as squeezing lime over the top, or even adding something like a good glass of lemonade (without too much sugar) will help.  Vitamin c helps boost our absorption rate of iron.


Stop the Tuting:
With time your belly will adapt to the fiber, but there is a secret.  
Fennel seed will help you ease the tummy troubles.  
You can either add a seed or two at the time of cooking the beans.  
Or you can make yourself an after dinner tea mix that include a seed or two in the steep.

If you planted your MILPA at the time of my last post your corn is stretching out an almost big enough to take the bean seeds.  The corn should be taller than your hand before you plant the beans, usually between 7-9 days after the corn was sown. You can plant any variety of bean you like to eat, this year I am planting local red beans.

Mexico gets their complete protein from the first two sisters, corn and beans.  It is speculated beans were being cultivated as long at 7000 years ago all around the Americas.  I have meet people from every continent who taught me a bean recipe.  Today’s recipe is inspired by Mexico because I married a Mexican, and it’s required that I cook good beans.  It took me more than 2 years to find the missing flavor between my beans and my mother in-law’s, but I finally have my version of the Mexican beans I’ve come to love.

The secret ingredient to Mexican beans? Epazote.

Look how beautiful the plant is!  Everyday I go and see them and they are stretching forever upward giving off the most awesome aroma you are lured to stick your nose in.


Basic Bean Recipe

500 g of any beans

sort to remove rocks
rinse with clean water
cover with double the amount of water and soak overnight

1 T (plus) of salt
big pinch/shake of black pepper
5 leaves of epazote
1/2 an onion skin removed, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, skin removed, whole or cut in half.

Because I wash the beans before soaking I add the beans and all of their water to a stock pot.  I add the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook on medium head for 1-1.5 hours depending on the size of bean. After 45 minutes you can start checking your beans every 10 minutes or so.

I would start by adding 1 tablespoon of salt and when you start to check the beans, you can add another 1/2-1 teaspoon each time until your desired level of salt is reached. I usually use 1.5 T in total.

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