Jan 312011

In Egypt they are thinking about bread; very important to the Egyptian people. Food shortages will be at the root of much of the turmoil we are seeing and will see in days ahead. And if this crisis messes up the Suez Canal, our oil supply could be cut dramatically. Even a ten percent reduction could bring business and transportation to a halt. Which makes me think about beans.

A strange thing to think about, granted. However, beans are a wonderful source of protein. Even though I am a vegetarian, they have never been a favorite food of mine. Realistically, I know that in hard times, beans will be an important source of nutrition. I need to come to terms with beans. Reading Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener (which I have blogged about here and here), I have reached the conclusion that I haven’t been thinking about beans properly. I’m talking about dry beans: garbonzos, pintos, etc. that one can store, eat during the winter months and use for seed the following season.

For most beans (lentils, cowpeas and peas excepted) Ms Deppe has a fairly involved soaking routine which she claims is most important. First she soaks the beans in cold water for a half hour to hydrate the skins. She pours this off and refills the pot with cold water and some boiling water to make it lukewarm, a couple gallons to a couple quarts of beans. She is now soaking the beans in the same way she would if she were going to germinate them. She stirs them once in awhile to equalize the oxygen. Every four or five hours she drains and refills the pot with fresh water for a total soaking time of around twelve hours (some varieties like fava, garbonzo or runner beans can take 36 hours to soak). The beans are ready to cook (or plant) when they are fully plumped out.

At this point she pours off the water,  rinses them and covers them with two inches of fresh water, adds a pinch of salt, favorite seasonings and some vegetable oil to keep the beans from foaming and boiling over. After the beans become soft she adds some fat and salt (or tamari). Her final trick is something acidic. Lime or lemon juice for the bowl or vinegar for the pot.

She further claims that our digestive system will adjust to eating beans if we eat them regularly, that not eating beans is what causes stomach distress when we occasionally eat them.

There’s much, much more information on beans in The Resilient Gardener. I’m inspired to grow some dry beans this year which will help extend the eating season from the garden. In her book she recommends specific varieties.


  9 Responses to “Thinking About Beans”

  1. We are Varitarians, and love all legumes. Probably my all time favorite food is Navy Bean and Bacon Soup. Or a big pot of Slit Pea & Ham, or any of many Chili recipes I have collected and tried. I also like mixing up a nice batch of garlicky & spicy Humas, spread on crackers or crispy toasted bread. If I am in a bit of a rush, and forgot to soak my beans overnight, I use the quick soak method, with fine results. Just bring your presorted (no stones) beans, up to a boil in a big pot of plain water, put a tight lid on the pot, and turn the burer off. Just let the covered pot sit for one hour, then drain and use them just as you would if you had soaked them overnight.

  2. Funny you should bring this up today. On my mission list, while in Bellingham today, was the task of finding local sources of bulk food – mainly flour, beans, large cans of whatever. The coop can order anything they have on the shelf, or in the plastic ‘by the scoop’ bins at a 20% discount.
    The Cash and Carry has 50 lb. sacks of just about everything at pretty good prices. I was tempted to load up my pickup truck bed with enough to feed the army for a year, then the realities of my actions began to sink in.
    I’ve never made a loaf a bread from scratch in my life. I think I need some yeast, powders, and other stuff.
    Then, where am I going to store 50 pound paper sacks of pinto beans for a year, and keep it from being rodent food. Plastic 5 gal. pails would work, but I don’t know where to get them.
    No, I can already see this sustainable thing is going to require more effort than just pushing a cart up to the smiling clerk on register 8, and swiping my card.

  3. Mike,

    I should probably revisit this again. http://transitionlummiisland.com/long-term-food-storage
    You can also order 50 lb bags, etc from the Islander. I got all my long term storage there except for the dried stuff from Costco.

    I can show you how to do this.

  4. Yer dern server messed up my spellin!

  5. I live on beans. There’s nothing separating them from bread, cheese, and such once you’ve been eating them every third day for a couple of months. No getting used to eggs though. It’s meat which I sense people never really digest fully.

    Tacos/burritos/nachos are my main courses.
    Hummus dip is a nice one.
    Falafels are nice tasty change.
    You can make veggie burgers with too, although I find it’s best to stick to one base: beans, nuts, or mushrooms, and not try to mix them all.

    Every major culture in the world employs beans, so if you have a hankering for something hot-indian/thai/javanese, throw some beans and rice in the crock pot, along with some cashews (they crock pot great), shrimp, pineapple, chili, mustard, kumquats, ginger (sushi ginger is best), mint sauce, pickled lime (not to my liking, but popular in such dishes), and your basic pumpkin pie sort of spices (or Chinese five-spice), plus peppers, cumin, curry, and such.

    Not liking beans is like not liking meat or bread products. It’s pretty versatile. Roughly one third, if not more now, of all grocery store products contain soybeans in one form another. A third also contain corn syrup. This correlates with what Marjory was saying, corn and soy are our two main crops. Soy is relatively bland though. Creating your own grocery type products with heirloom beans might add more gusto to your diet. As well as ‘which wine goes best with this dish’, think ‘which bean goes best in this dish’. I bet beans can even be mashed and distilled. Ah yes, in some Vodka and some Japanese liquor, plus the obvious soy sauce. (like cider vs. vinegar).


    I knew someone who’s dad afforded their home by buying 55 gallon drums of beans to feed 11 kids. You can get 5 Gal. buckets with lids from fast food restaurants, used for storing pickles mostly. 3.5 gallon cat litter jugs are the option used in my pantry for rice, flour, and such (they’re rectangular and store more better). My sugar goes into glass gallon apple juice jugs. Gallon jars are a good thing too. Maybe large coffee cans. Often buying in bulk is actually a rip-off (always check!), but I can buy 64oz of pickles for twice the price of a 12oz jar. My rectangular juice bottles and wine bottles get repurposed as well.

    In fact there is very little I haven’t found a use for. Even toilet paper rolls get used for bundling electronics cables or as disposable cat box scrapers. Aside from recycling, I throw out about a gallon of trash every two weeks, mostly aluminized plastic bags, light bulbs, tape, and such. As a workshop inventor, any solid scrap of metal, plastic, or rubber gets sorted by shape, and might become part of a bicycle trailer or guitar. An old bike innertube or wire coat-hanger has innumerable purposes. It’s a different mind set, saving everything, and one many people frown on, but I assure you that it’s how our forefathers and those in poorer nations get by. A pretty but chipped plate is still useful under a house plant. A ball-point pen and a wine cork can extend a bike brake-cable sheath. Your egg cartons can be going to neighbors with hens, or used to start seedlings. I could seriously fill a book with repurposing tips. Just think of your recyclables as your hardware store. Need to insulate a pipe?.. Aluminum cans and all that foam wrap eBay sends you. If you do it well, it actually adds some story aesthetic value, like when the replacement power button on your drill press was once a coat button from you old girlfriend, or your replacement bike pump handle is half of an old favorite yoyo melted to fit your palm, or your bike grips are made from salvaged moose hide, old plastic flowers become spigots on hummingbird feeders, beach driftwood and glass cola bottles become an herb rack, fabric suitcases become bike luggage racks, held up with parts from lawn chairs or swing-arm lamps, old skirts become spunky stuffed animals your niece makes, a lace negligée serves as a dust filter on your box fan, an old telephone becomes the chassis/keypad for a guitar effect controller. I could go on all night just looking from my chair here, but you get the idea. Most everything is still useful, so reduce consumption of new materials.

  6. I’ve been a bean fan for a long time. I know you can do a much simpler soak than described here– it is just unnecessary and counterproductive to make something like soaking beans so complicated…the idea is to make ’em appealing, right? So keep it easy. Soak them overnight, pour off the water when you’re ready to cook, add more water, and go. There’s another accepted method if you forgot to soak ’em, where you bring them to a boil for 5 minutes, turn off the heat, and let them sit for an hour, then change the water and cook. I’m sure her method has some rationale, but it just is way toooo fussy for most people. Also, some chefs recommend that you salt and flavor at the end of the cooking or the beans get tough. MAYBE your body will develop the enzymes needed to digest beans over time–it hasn’t worked for me–but if you take an enzyme tablet or capsule with the bean dish, you should be fine. I have 25# bags of black beans and lentils that I got through the Islander…and planning to order a bag of cannalinis next. (50 # seems like a lot of one kind of bean….!)

  7. Oh, I’m reminded of a fantastic resource for century old homesteading practices:
    Henleys Twentieth Century Home and Workshop Formulas Recipes and Processes.

    Patina metal, dye hair, electroplate tools, stop termites, tan leather, temper bandsaw blades, insulate wiring, make liquid smoke for bees; it’s all pretty much in here, and using things expected to be on a farm back then, like vinegar, beeswax, and pine resin. c. 1921


    Hmm, judging by the URL (paint recipe, cupric oxide), I found this when researching making solar heating paint. (something they didn’t quite have back in 1921)

    I know this is way off topic for ‘beans’, but the topic might never come up, though it has been mentioned in passing, and at least ties in to complete my stray ramblings.


    I’m up for Pat’s method, which I’ve heard before. I haven’t got around to dry beans myself yet. I’m too spontaneous to predict tomorow’s actual dinner plans. As often as I use beans though, come to think of it, I suppose it’s foolish for me to not have soaked dry beans on hand at all times.

  8. Deppe’s argument for soaking is based on the contention that we have never really tasted good beans unless we’ve grown them ourselves and cooked them properly, soaking and oxygenating so the the growth inhibitors are released, etc. etc.

    I realize that how one cooks things is pretty personal. I personally try to avoid talking politics, religion or how to cook beans. I’ve gone out on a limb here and taken a chance with my book report on The Resilient Gardener. Since I am a blank slate when it comes to bean cookery, I will try her method and report back next year.

  9. Oh jeez, that reminds me of one thing you MUST NOT STORE.
    POTATOES! (for instance two months in sunlight). If they sit in the sun, and turn green, that green is a natural insecticide called Solanine which killed many in WW2. A half pound of green potatos (a huge single serving of cottage fries) is enough to kill an adult. I learned the hard way. I was warned of this as a kid, then later convinced it was an old wives tale. It is not. Apparently in this day of rapid consumption and lack of pantrys, groceries don’t think to warn people anymore.

    Possibly they can be canned in the dark or dried to prevent this. Commercial operators make crop insecticide with such potatoes (a use for us as well, possibly). It may be where the genes for Gold Star corn came from (just speculation). It’s less likely to happen in the fridge or dark than in the sun, but then your potatoes grow instead. I shave off a paper thin coating of green wih no ill effects, but never again once that’s 1/4″ thick.


    As she said about brown rice, anything with oil, especially nuts and oil, goes rancid. I suppose keeping a pantry, in addition to drying and preserving, is it’s own full study. I’ve done some research on salvaging foods from mold, and have concluded that with 100’s of similar looking molds which really grow deeper than where they appear, that it’s a lost cause unless you keep a microscope handy. Better safe than sorry.

    {I spent a few years doing nothing other than discussing politics and spirituality}

    So preserving info is on the agenda too I suppose. No sense growing things we can’t store unless things all get distributed for consumption within a week. That too can be a full time job for a large family or small group. I bet M. is a mormon. Amongst their virtues is being custodians of food preserving techniques.

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