We are clearly full of beans. From the U.S. alone, we have about 8 pounds of beans annually, per capita, and the current prevalence of Mexican cuisine plays no small part. The U.S. plants about 1.6 million acres per year. Worldwide production of dry beans was over 18 million metric tons in 2016, the leading manufacturers are Myanmar (Burma), India and Brazil.
China loves their soybeans (edamame) and mung beans, the Middle East grinds garbanzos for hummus and tahini, Mexico serves up refried pinto and black beans, Italy makes their signature minestrone with cannellini and red kidney beans, and the U.S. favors them baked, or cajun red beans and rice. How to Get Rid of Possums. While once considered an inferior food, beans are held in high favor worldwide.
They could be dried and carried on boats, they lasted through a long cold winter, they are soaked or boiled easily and they filled empty stomachs. Beans are one of the earliest cultivated crops, providing a significant source of protein and nutrients throughout Old and New World history.
Fava beans were a major source of food for the ancient Israelites and are still eaten primarily in Mediterranean countries. Old Testament civilizations such as Jericho and Babylon consumed them every day. The Aztecs and Incas grew and ate legumes as a important portion of their diet. They were also used as counting tools and cash, and appeared symbolically at weddings. Asia has eaten them for centuries, and Egyptians included them in tombs to insure voyage into the afterlife.
Italian Renaissance gourmet Bartholomew Scappi explained dishes of beans, eggs, cinnamon, walnuts, sugar, onions and butter in his cookbooks. Catherine d’ Medici of Florence was supposedly so fond of Italy’s cannellini beans, she smuggled some to France when she married Henry, Duke of Orleans, later to become King Henry II of France. (You know those French chefs–legumes were considered beneath them.) If this story is true, we can thank Queen Catherine to get cassoulet, a French delicacy made with goose fat, duck or lamb and white beans. (When the Queen needed beans, her French chefs jumped.)
During the 9th century, Charlemagne (King Charles I) revived productivity to European lands which had been ravaged by war, ordering chickpeas to become a major crop which helped prevent starvation in his vast kingdom,
Early American colonists cultivated multiple varieties. They were used in soups and stews and may be dried to feed large families throughout the winter, when food was scarce. Thomas Jefferson enjoyed many different kinds of beans out of his abundant garden, experimenting with various varieties and creating new recipes for his dinner guests. (Well, okay, our foodie president didn’t actually cook, but he chased his French-trained chef.)
From the early 1900s, a man named Henry J Heinz put canned baked beans on the map, both in the U.S. and the U.K. Today, Heinz baked beans is one of the most popular and recognizable canned foods on the grocery shelves. Surprisingly, the top bean eaters on the planet will be the U.K. countries. Worldwide, a whopping 2 million people consume baked beans every day.
What is more American than franks and beans? Or chili?