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Beans - a Best Buy!

Beans are a valuable addition to the diet - they have many nutrients, a cheap source of protein, and lots of fiber.  While canned beans are a valuable resource, for big families, economy's sake in tight economic times, or for an emergency stock, dried beans are a great choice too.

  • Chose clean-looking beans with glossy skins.
  • Store beans in their original package or a tight canister or jar.  Keep them dry and cool.
  • Check for bugs after a few weeks; at the first sign of infestation, freeze for 48 hours in a watertight plastic container, then remove and store as usual.
  • Beans can be stored for up to a year.  Be aware that they slowly lose flavor and take longer to cook, the longer you keep them.
  • If you get a really good buy on dried beans, or dry those from your own garden, and wish them to retain freshness longer, they can be frozen in an airtight freezer container or bag.
  • Sort before use; discard any that are shriveled or unhealthy looking, and watch for stones and other debris.
  • Wash beans before use.
  • For economy, put to soak several hours before cooking time so they can plump up.  This cuts the cooking time and lets them tenderize faster.
  • Drain the soaking water, rinse and cover with ample water for cooking.  Some people bring beans to a boil, then drain and repeat for the actual cooking, stating that this improves flavor and reduces "bean gas" problems.  I don't find that to be always true, except for beans that have been stored more than a month or three.
  • Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low heat until tender.  Depending on the recipe you may add ingredients before cooking or afterwards.
  • As they boil, you may wish to skim and discard any large amounts of foam that form.
  • Whatever you do, don't add salt until the beans are tender!  Salted beans take forever and ever to cook.
  • Some recipes suggest adding bicarbonate of soda to the cooking water to cook them faster.  Frankly, it affects the taste and also there are reports that it destroys some nutrients.  Better not...
  • If you wish to "live green", are an environmentalist, or a vegan or vegetarian, beans are a winner all around.  Growing beans actually improves the soil, acting as a fertilizer even as they grow.  Beans take much less land to produce than meat, have no cholesterol or fat, contain vitamins which improve health and prevent birth defects, and keep the digestive system healthier.  They are heart healthy, cheap, and tasty. 
  • If you, or family members, don't care for beans, start slow with just a few added to soup, for instance.  Then step up your intake with well-seasoned recipes.  You'll be glad you did!
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