Beans are a terrific example of a healthful food that provides what foodies call “sustainable nutrition.” They are an affordable, nutrient and protein-rich food that do not negatively impact the environment. Choose a few of your favorite beans, add a healthy grain, and you have a dish filled with protein and nutrients without taxing the farmlands already suffering under the stress of the meat industry.
The wonderful variety of beans makes them easy to incorporate into a range of hot and cold meals. Beyond canned, ready-to-use beans, you can choose from a wide array of dry beans, a subgroup of legumes and pulses (an edible seed that comes from the legume plant) that are “climate-smart.” By this we mean that they simultaneously adapt to varying climates and use less water compared to many other protein sources. Dry beans also require less fertilizer and promote biodiversity, all of which plays a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Each type of bean calls for slightly different preparations. Some varieties of canned beans may be eaten out of the can after rinsing, others require gentle heating, and others are so delicate, they are best used in cold dishes. Likewise, dry beans will have different storage requirements, require rinsing or soaking, and are ideal for use in a variety of cooking methods.
With a little extra time and an array of seasonings or supplemental ingredients, you can turn basic beans into a flavorful meal. For example: combine kidney beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans with diced tomato, diced colorful peppers, corn off the cob, fresh squeezed lime juice, chopped cilantro, EVOO, ground cumin, salt, and pepper. This makes a gorgeous, aromatic bean salad that you can serve over greens or with warm farro.