Our ingredient girl, chef Jo Lusted, spills the beans (literally!) on some lesser-known varieties.
- There are hundreds of varieties of beans.
- Beans are one of the best sources of soluble fibre, which helps lower your cholesterol and, in turn, your risk of heart disease.
- They're "good" carbs (i.e. your body has to work hard to digest their complex sugars, which helps to boost your metabolism).
- They're cheap to buy and easy to prepare.
- Store dry beans in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
- Dry beans (that you soak, then cook) offer the most nutritional value and the best flavour and texture. That said, if the convenience of buying canned is easier for you, do it!
- Never boil beans in the soaking liquid; drain them first, then cook in fresh water.
- Drain beans and discard water after cooking as well.
- A small red bean (pictured above), famous for its role as the main ingredient in sweet red-bean paste.
- Adzuki beans are excellent in rice dishes or salads.
- Unlike some other varieties, adzuki beans are very easy to digest and won't make you gassy.
- To prepare, soak beans overnight then boil on stovetop for about 30 minutes before using in recipes.
- A medium, whitish bean with a buttery flavour.
- Lima beans are great for adding structure to soups and stews.
- Their complex makeup means they're harder to digest and will make you gassy.
- Don't use lima beans in recipes that require additional sugar, which will make it twice as hard for your body to digest them.
- To reduce the chance of flatulence, always rinse your beans after they have been soaked and never use the soaking water.
- To prepare, soak beans overnight then boil on stovetop for 2-3 hours before using in recipes.
- Native to India, these are one of the world's smallest beans.
- However, mung beans are also one of the most beneficial to your health.
- Just one cup of cooked mung beans boasts 15 grams of fibre.
- Mung beans don't need to be pre-soaked, just sort and rinse them before cooking as per recipe instructions.
- They're extremely versatile; mung beans can be added to almost anything and are easy to digest.
- Mung beans can also be eaten raw when sprouted. (This is where bean sprouts come from; they'll go from seed to sprout in just 2-5 days.)
- To sprout, soak beans in water for 8-12 hours, rinse then soak again. Repeat over a 2-5 day period, depending on length of sprouts desired.
- Pronounced "flah-JOH-lay," they look like green kidney beans.
- Their creamy texture is popular in French cuisine.
- Flageolet beans are make a great side dish (mixed with onions, tomatoes, etc.) for lamb and poultry.
- Cook them low and slow to achieve an even more buttery, mushy texture.
- Just one serving of flageolet beans offers almost 80% of your daily suggested iron intake.
- To prepare, soak beans overnight then boil on stovetop for about 45 minutes before using in recipes.
- Cranberry beans are quite pretty dry but turn light brown after cooking.
- They posess a nutty flavour similar to that of chestnuts.
- Cranberry beans are available in most supermarkets. Try an Italian grocer if you're having trouble finding them.
- To prepare, soak beans overnight then boil on stovetop for about 1 hour before using in recipes.