The New Musical Fruit

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You’re Darn Tootin’

When I was a child, somebody taught me a lively little tune that went like this:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So eat some beans with every meal

As it happens, there are several simple ways to prepare dried beans so they won’t make you musical, which I will discuss in a minute. First, however, I’d like to share this fascinating glimpse into a Japanese greenhouse where bananas and tomatoes listen to Mozart and develop greater sweetness. Here’s the link:

How To Cook Tasty Dried Beans Without Gas

Nutritious and protein rich, beans also contain indigestible carbohydrates that make human intestinal flora work overtime. For many years, it was assumed that oligosaccharides (complex sugar molecules) were the culprits, but recent research suggests that the tough carbohydrates in the cell walls of legumes are the true cause of musical beans.

To lessen this response, many people soak beans, toss the soaking water and start again. This does reduce the gassy effect but it also removes water soluble vitamins and nutrients as well as color and flavor. One solution is to cook beans low and slow (an hour or more), allowing plenty of time for water to penetrate those dense little seeds.

Start by soaking beans in salted water. Many sources say not to do this because salt slows down the cooking time. Harold McGee, a remarkable food chemist, says that in fact, beans cook faster after being soaked in salted water, and he is absolutely right. If you haven’t read Harold’s amazing book, On Food and Cooking, you have a terrific treat in store.

Preserving Great Texture and Flavor

To keep beans whole, with flavor and texture intact, simmer them in the salted soaking water, using just enough to keep them covered. (If you need to, add a little hot water or broth now and then). Usually an hour or so of gentle simmering will do the trick. If beans taste flat, try adding shoyu or say sauce instead of salt; it penetrates the beans more quickly and thoroughly, creating a warm, full flavor without tasty too salty.

Cooking beans with molasses and/or tomatoes also helps keep them firm even after long cooking, which is why baked beans hold their shape so well. Tossing a cut-up orange or lemon in the bean pot will also keep beans firm and add a lively sparkle to the flavor as well.

Orange Cranberry Beans

1 cup dried cranberry beans
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
6 cloves garlic, whole (skins on)
2 cups water
1 organic orange, rind grated, cut in quarters
1 cup raw cranberries
few drops Tabasco sauce
shoyu or soy sauce to taste

Rinse beans well and blanche in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cover with cool water, stirring in salt. Let stand 2-3 hours, adjust water as needed, then add the fennel seed, garlic, orange rind and half the orange, cover pan and bring to a simmer over low heat. When tender (about 1 hour), add cranberries and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Squeeze garlic into broth and mash lightly. Season to taste with Tabasco and shoyu or soy sauce and serve, garnished with a squeeze of fresh orange juice. Serves 4-6.

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