Who Doesn't Know Beans?
When we use the expression, "He doesn't know beans," we imply that the person referred to is very stupid or ignorant. But if Christopher Columbus had been accused of not knowing beans, it would have been quite true, for neither he nor any other Europeans of his day had ever seen or heard of our beans until the Indians in
(The only beans known to Europeans prior to the discovery of
Today beans are cultivated in nearly every part of the entire world, other than the Frigid Zones, and are one of the most important of all food-plants. In fact they are almost indispensable, and we wonder how on earth civilized man ever existed without them. What would the miner, the prospector, the lumberman, the sailor, the explorers and men of scores of other vocations do without beans? And what would
Probably no one knows how many varieties of beans are cultivated today, yet it is doubtful if there is a type of bean, even if there are many new varieties, which was not known to the Indians long before Europeans reached
Like the potato, the maize and a number of other important food-plants, the beans had been cultivated for so long that the original wild ancestors of many of the species are unknown. And like so many other valuable food-plants the majority of the cultivated beans were developed by the pre-Incan races of
In addition to the Lima beans and scarlet runners, which have `become the most popular and widely cultivated of the "flat" beans in
Wherever there are civilized human beings, and in many places where there are only savages, we will find beans of some sort being used. They are equally appreciated upon the tables of millionaires and potentates or in the calabashes of the raggedest, most poverty-stricken peons. They thrive and blossom and bear their store of nutritious seeds on the soil of Africa, Asia,
No other plant-food is so rich in protein as are beans, and they supply more nutriment at a lower price than any other food-plant, hence it is no wonder that they have become so universally popular and essential to mankind everywhere. Although we of the north are familiar with a number of varieties of beans, and cultivate a large array of string beans (Fig. 3), wax beans, kidney beans, navy beans, Lima beans and other, there are as many if not more varieties which we seldom or never see. Some of these are quite gorgeously colored, and are handsomely marked with contrasting hues, like those which so fascinated Jack the Giant Killer that he recklessly exchanged his mother's cow for a single bean. Others are tiny things, jet black or rich purple in color, and there are even big flat beans of the Lima bean type with tender delicate edible pods, while others have slender almost cylindrical edible pods with beans which are scarcely larger than BB shot when fully mature and ripe.
- This article is from A. Hyatt Verrill, Foods America Gave the World, L. C. Page & Company,
, Ma., 1937, Chapter XII, pp. 88-93. Boston
- Illustrations are by A. Hyatt Verrill.
- This copy reproduced from www.foodhistory.com/foodnotes/leftovers/beans/beans2.htm