BeanCon is a global bean event where people (aka bean enthusiasts) from around the globe gather to discuss the best topic ever – BEANS! BeanCon23 was held in the beautiful city of Medellín, Colombia and was a huge success, not to mention an absolute blast.
Naturally, I wanted to share some of what we learned about beans because beans are too cool to not share. 🙂 So, here we go!
What Did We Learn at BeanCon?
We covered so many great topics, it’s hard to summarize them briefly. Here is an overview of the event.
BeanCon – Day 1
Rebecca Bratter, the Executive Director of the US Dry Bean Council, kicked off the event. She is an excellent bean advocate!
Casey Bean, an Agricultural Counselor, also provided welcoming remarks. Am I serious that his last name is Bean? YES. Am I (more than just a little) jealous that he has the coolest last name ever? You better believe it.
Then, Nick Buettner with Blue Zones delivered the welcome keynote, and he provided food for thought about the importance of healthy diets and lifestyles in enjoying long healthspans (healthspan meaning the length of the lifespan for which we are healthy). Wondering what one of the primary cornerstones of diets in regions and populations around the world with the greatest percentage of centenarians and very low rates of chronic disease is? Spoiler alert: BEANS. Around a cup a day (and honestly, based on the research coming out, I would argue even more than that to help optimize health).
During networking breaks, we got to visit with exhibitors. CIAT (the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) had a booth and shared about their work on beans.
Next was a great panel outlining production, supply, and demand. It’s fascinating to watch the global dynamics!
Chef Brad Barnes facilitated an informative panel with panelists from the Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Kids Collaborative, the military, and Bold Bean Co. My only complaint about this panel was that I didn’t get to try any Bold Beans! I’ve been following their company and work for a while and really want to – I guess I’ll have to make the trip to the UK sooner rather than later to enjoy a jar. 🙂
Next up was a panel that addressed sustainability, facilitated by Root the Future. We heard from experts such as a dry bean specialist, the Director of External Affairs and Sustainability of Bush Beans, and the president of the Global Pulse Confederation and co-owner of Chippewa Valley Bean (if you haven’t tried their fudgy kidney bean brownie recipe, I very highly recommend it!).
The last panel of the day we discussed more about how beans are trending and play such a critical role in cuisines that are both delicious and sustainable.
It was a packed and wonderful first day at BeanCon23!
BeanCon – Day 2
The first panel of the day was on mythbusting. There are so many myths out there about beans, it’s crazy (and upsetting)!! During this panel, we went through some of the main myths one-by-one and addressed them with science. I was honored to be a part of this panel along with Alyson Greenhalgh-Ball, Dr. Michael Greger, and our awesome facilitator, Jessica Hegarty.
A fascinating panel on bean flours followed us, and we learned lots about the functionality of bean flours, potential challenges, and exciting opportunities.
Before the closing speech, we heard from several entrepreneurs, including the founders of BeanVIVO, PNuff Crunch, and Boon Food Concepts. It makes me so happy to see how people are using beans in tasty, accessible, and innovative ways!
Paul Newnham was the BeanCon closing keynote speaker, and he nailed it! He summarized the event perfectly, shared about the wonderful new(-ish) campaign Beans Is How, and motivated us to all eat more beans and spread the word!
What Does the Bean Scene Look Like in Medellín?
I’m not pretending to know everything about beans in Medellín, by any means. However, I wanted to share what I saw with you all to hopefully peak your interest and also encourage you to share back what you have seen or know about beans in Colombia!
Bean Dishes We Enjoyed at BeanCon
The night before BeanCon began, there was a press event at the rooftop bar of El Cielo, a beautiful boutique hotel.
Not to make you too jealous or anything, but not only were there delightful bean snacks, there was a PINTO BEAN COCKTAIL. Now, I have tried beans in a looooot of different ways, trust me. But, this was new for me! And it was absolutely delicious!
At BeanCon, one of my favorite dishes was this killer bean soup. It looked and tasted to me like it had cargamanto beans, which are very popular in Colombia.
Other Bean Dishes
This was a short trip to Colombia to participate in BeanCon, so I sadly did not have the chance to eat my way around the city as much as I would have liked. That being said, I of course made sure to have beans for every meal. Here are some of the bean dishes I got to savor. Plus, I guess it just means I’ll have to go back to try more beans!
The photo below shows the closest I got to the traditional Colombian dish of bandeja paisa. The arepas had a delicious smokey/grilled flavor, and the beans and rice part was exactly how I liked it – less rice, more beans. 🙂 I thought the texture of these beans was amazing – super creamy with thin skins, a good size that made for a satisfying bite of bean, and great flavor.
Okay, so this next one cannot technically be classified as a “culinary delight,” but it was still pretty good! I needed something to eat during BeanCon rehearsal day so went to the restaurant at the hotel and asked for a side of beans to go. They looked at me strangely and clarified that was all I wanted, which of course it was because I am literally powered by beans. And ta-da! The benefit of always looking for beans on the menu, or asking for them – whether they are actually written on the menu or not!
Beans at Plaza Minorista in Medellín, Colombia
I hate to break it to you, but if you Googled “Plaza Minorista Medellin Colombia” and somehow landed on this blog, I only have eyes for one thing: beans. So, consider yourself fully warned that you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re here for the beans though, then read (or look) on! This part is essentially just an excuse to share photos of lovely beans and a bustling, vibrant market full of delicious produce and other goods.
Can you spot the beans in the next two photos below?
Look at all these beautiful beans!
Now let’s zoom in on some of those beans…
Shown below are cargamanto rojo beans – beautiful and delicious! These were one of my personal favorites.
Next up is bola roja beans, which one vendor also called radical beans. They look like little red gems!
Bean in Grocery Stores in Medellín, Colombia
What about beans in grocery stores? Here are some of my bean and bean product finds in the stores I had a chance to visit.
So, which of these did I actually try? Well, I stashed up on beans for the trip home, and I ate all of the products shown in the photo below. After all, sampling (read: devouring) bean and other pulse products counts as research, right??
I love roasted chickpeas so of course enjoyed those. I also really liked the rice crackers that had garbanzos mixed in – what a great idea! I thought the garbanzo and quinoa snack mix was also an intriguing concept. I wish we had more of these products in the United States!
I want to pause on the next photo because technically I didn’t find this one in the grocery store. I met someone at BeanCon who wanted to show me that beans are also sold like this, so she literally had them delivered to my hotel room that night! A shout-out to Lili with Comiagro. Thank you. 🙂
Yes, you can get the pods with the beans inside, before they have completely dried down (frijol verde en vaina)! I sat there in my hotel room happily opening them to reveal these truly gorgeous beans.
I Hope to See You at the Next BeanCon!
I would love to see you at BeanCon! If you haven’t partied with bean people yet, then trust me – you haven’t partied. 😉 Thank you to the US Dry Bean Council for hosting this incredible event and inviting me to be a panelist to help bust myths about beans!
Looking for more info and photos from bean travels? Check out this post about beans in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.