Talk beany to me - Bean Conversation Starters

Bean Conversation Starters

Well, friends, it’s coming up on 1 year since I started this website. And what a year it has bean! In case you’re wondering if this post is all about terrible bean puns… as much as I wish I were that creative, the answer is no. But I think it’s even better: BEAN CONVERSATION STARTERS. Now, after the conversation is started, where and how far it will lead… I can make no promises there.

Why am I writing this? Basically, after talking to lots of different people about my favorite topic (yes, that would be beans and other pulses), I realized that there is a lot out there that most people have never heard about beans. No judgment, it makes total sense that people wouldn’t have heard these things! But you can be the one to change that. And the number of close friends you can make by sharing these fascinating tidbits – well, the sky is the limit.

Do Beans Make You Gassy?

I have already written about this, but I realize I should write more. Because let me tell you, as soon as I mention that I am researching beans, give away beans at a promotional bean event, or tell people how many servings of beans I eat a day (read: an abnormally large amount by the standards of most), it is inevitable. In what they somehow assume must be a very witty comment that I will never have heard before, people make a joke about farting. I chuckle politely because, well, social graces. But I do have news for you… you are not the first person to have cracked this joke to me, shocking as that may be. So here is the deal: yes, beans can make you fart. BUT so do other foods. And also, you should fart. It is a natural human act. So, let’s move past it.

No? Still can’t get past it? Okay, then here are some tips from my aforementioned post on whether beans are really a musical fruit:

  • If you can, give your body a little time. Once you get used to a higher fiber diet rich in beans, any gassiness may dissipate like the wind.
  • Try other beans/pulses. Do mung beans make you feel less than stellar? Maybe try some pinto beans. Please note: these are just two random types of pulses I picked, this is not a scientific recommendation of a flatulence reducing substitution (sorry). Everyone reacts differently to different types of pulses, so experiment to see what works best for you, your digestive system, and the olfactory systems of those around you.
  • Work up to it. Start with smaller amounts and gradually add more pulses into your dietary pattern. This is similar to the first recommendation but may help you avoid any discomfort to begin with.

Are All Beans the Same Nutritionally?

Nope! But they do have some of the same important dietary components. Pulses are one of the the richest natural sources of dietary fiber. People may think fiber does not sound exciting, but I beg to differ. Because I think we can all agree that regular bowel movements and a healthy, thriving gut are indeed quite exciting. Protein seems to be the macronutrient with a shining halo on it right now, and fiber (which technically is not even classified as a nutrient – but I’ll spare you the nuances of nutritional science right now) often falls to the wayside. Well, two comments there:

  1. Fiber is associated with SO many healthy benefits that is blows my mind more people aren’t more excited about it. Also, there were only 4 dietary components of public health concern called out in the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fiber was one because it is dramatically under-consumed by most of the American population. You know what wasn’t on that list? Protein. To be clear, I love (whole, natural) sources of protein, too. I just want to make sure that someone stands up for fiber!
  2. Pulses are packed with protein! In fact, they have about a one-to-one ratio of protein-to-fiber, with a cooked half-cup containing something like 7 grams of each. So why focus on just protein when you could enjoy pulses and have BOTH?

Rather than ramble on, I will save more details about nutrition for another post. In a nutshell, though…

Takeaway 1. Pulses have an amazing dietary fiber profile and pack in protein, although there can be slight differences in the exact amounts of these dietary components between types of pulses.

Takeaway 2. Have you noticed how pulses come in many different colors? The different colors hint at different phytochemicals, just like fruits and vegetables of diverse colors have unique phytochemicals!

What is the Most Popular Bean in the United States?

Pintos, and they have it by a landslide! I live in Colorado, and about 80% of our dry bean production is pinto beans. Check out this video of a pinto planting.

Earlier this year (2021), while attending the pinto bean planting linked to above, one of the farmers at the event (a fantastic young lady, 7 years old but way more knowledgeable than I am about farming… and I imagine many other things, too) told me her favorite way to eat pintos is when they are still green. TO BE CLEAR. I would NOT recommend this to most people, but she lives on a bean farm and likes to go out to the fields when the beans are still green – before they have their characteristic mottled coloration, and before the stage they would be left alone to dry in the field – and pop them out of their pods and enjoy them like edamame.

Pinto bean coloration
Look! Picked this plant in a pinto field in mid-September (yes, with the farmer’s permission), and you can see that characteristic pattern just kicked in!

Did you know you could do that? Nope, neither did I. And if you did know that, you are probably a pulse grower. That means I am a huge admirer of yours – please reach out! I would absolutely love to talk to you about your experiences!! One of the main goals of my PhD is to do research that comes full circle and benefits growers, too.

Are All Pinto Beans the Same?

Or insert any pulse here, it does not have to be pinto. Either way, the answer is no. Not only are there almost innumerable types of pulses (chickpeas, lentils, rattlesnake beans, calypso beans, cowpeas… and the list goes waaaaay on!), but there are many different varieties.

For example, here are several varieties of pinto which farmers can choose from: Cowboy, Othello, Windbreaker (no, I’m not kidding), and many others. The world of bean breeding is a fascinating place, friends! And wow, do pulses look incredible in the field!

Are Beans Single-Origin?

Usually, the beans you are getting on grocery store shelves are a ‘mixed bag.’ Due to the cleaning process (where beans are triple cleaned and beans from multiple farms are combined together and stored in a silo at a mill), there will be an assortment of locations and even varieties within a bag. Cleaning is a major challenge to overcome, but some farms do have their own beans available! For example, check out these gorgeous heirloom beans from Sheridan Acres!

Sheridan Acres heirloom beans
Heirloom beans are a thing of beauty!
Sheridan Acres Flor de Mayo beans
Just gorgeous! *heart eyes*

Or, at the Fort Collins Food Co-op, you can now pick up pinto beans from Seaworth Farms, which is the farm featured in the pinto planting video linked to above. You can also get Colorado Proud beans there, making the Food Co-op the first retail location with these beans available!

Seaworth Farms Beans at Fort Collins Food Co-op
Colorado Proud Beans at Fort Collins Food Co-op

So there you have it, some delightful bean conversation starters. If the conversation turns into too much excitement to handle, you can always transition to chatting about your favorite pulse recipes, although be forewarned – that may be equally overstimulating.

As always, please feel free to send any pulse questions my way – it would make my day! 🙂

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