Peasant food: Behold the lowly bean


Beans, beans, good for the heart...

Sometimes it's hard to get past the indelible impressions that childhood leaves on the psyche. For example, although I know that the bean is among the most impressive, healthy, and useful foods, I have a hard time getting past their reputation as, well, a prime source of natural gas.

For example, a little bit of research has taught me that beans are among the oldest cultivated plants in the world; the ancient Egyptians grew broad beans, and common beans have been farmed for over six thousand years in the Americas. They are, I was impressed to discover, a fruit, not a vegetable, and they are an outstanding source of iron, fiber, and protein. Without them, vegetarians could hardly survive. Even so, I have a hard time going beyond the musical fruit designation.