The world of beans

Broad Bean (Vicia faba), is confined mostly to tropical regions of the world, while requiring a cool season for its development. This plant is grown as a winter annual in the warm temperate and subtropical regions and is cultivated for its seeds that are consumed either immature or mature. The beans are marketed in their green pods. Broad Beans are very popular in Europe, including the Mediterranean and in many tropical countries.

French Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is a twinning plant believed to be derived from Central America and Mexico. These beans were brought to Europe by the Spanish and Portuguese. The beans tolerate a wide range of conditions in tropical and temperate countries, but do poorly in the very wet tropics where rain causes disease and flower drop. These plants are sensitive to diurnal fluctuations, folding their leaves together at night, while at dawn the leaves unfold towards the sun. Some cultivars yield yellow pods, but pods are more commonly green.

Snap Beans are a cultivar of French Beans used as entire pods, other cultivars are eaten as immature green seeds, while the third group consists of dry beans. Lima Beans (Phaseolus lunatus) are climbing perennial plants. They grow over adjacent vegetation in the wet season and then die back in the dry season. The seeds are large and variable in colour. These beans are now cultivated in South America, Asia and Africa. They are now a very important crop plant in Africa. White Lima Beans contain smaller amounts of cyanogens and need less cooking. Mung Bean (Phaeseolus aureus) is an annual plant and is commonly grown in Asia, especially China, while also being a popular food plant in western countries. Sprouts are popular in salads and stir-fries.

Soybean (Glycine max) is a source of edible oil and is now cultivate on a large scale in the United States. In Indonesia fermented soybeans are consumed as tempe, and as tofu in China and Japan. Soy sauce is a Soybean product. Soybeans are very popular nowadays, partly because they are very rich in protein.

Most beans are nutritive and rich in proteins, they are a good source of B vitamins, mineral and fibre. Beans are best cooked in plenty of water and often require soaking before being cooked.

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