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While most know this crop only as the magical fruit, the bean has an ancient history of cultivation across the world. Historians have found legumes carbon dated back to 9750 BC in Southeast Asia and 6750 BC in West Asia. In Egypt, beans were so valuable that they were placed in tombs, and Egyptians were the first people known to have cooked beans. Meanwhile in the Americas, beans had a different story; varieties of Haricot beans, which are what most usually picture when thinking of dried beans, were cultivated by native communities throughout Mexico and Peru and spread throughout the rest of the Americas via migration and trade.
In the Northeast region of modern-day United States, varieties of beans were being cultivated as early as 1500 BC. These beans were often grown with other crops such as corn and squash, with what is commonly known as the “three sisters” growing method, due to beans’ nitrogen-fixing properties and benefits for soil quality. This symbiotic method of growing corn, beans, and squash continues to be an important practice in Afro-Indigenous agriculture today.
Beans are an important and economical staple worldwide in nearly every community. Providing a myriad of health benefits, they offer the perfect blend of nutrition, utility, and cultural comfort. It is important to incorporate this historically significant food into institutional meals, including school lunches, in order to offer culturally relevant foods, support soil health in our region, and improve the nutritional profile of meals on the public plate served by institutions.
Spilling the Beans: Bean Facts
- There are over 400 varieties of dried beans in existence, which are preserved in genetic banks across the world.
- New York ranks 10th in the United States for dried bean production, with 34,000 acres of dried beans harvested per year.
- New York beans are grown almost exclusively in Central and Western NY, with 60% of the legumes processed in cans and the other 40% remaining dried.
- Beans and other legumes are “nitrogen-fixing ” plants, putting essential nutrients back into the soil for other plants.
- Beans are both a source of healthy carbohydrates with lots of fiber and a protein source! They can be used in institutional meals as either a vegetable or a protein alternative. A quarter cup of cooked beans is nutritionally equivalent to 1 oz of meat.
Beans are a great source of protein. Combining beans with grains such as rice provides us with a "complete protein" source, meaning all nine essential amino acids are provided.
Beans contain high levels of folate, which is a B vitamin especially crucial for cell development in growing children and adolescents.
Beans are a rich source of iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Product Availability, Pack Sizes, and Quality Characteristics
Common Dried Beans Varieties
|U.S. No. 1||U.S. Grade A|
|U.S. No. 2||U.S. Grade B|
|U.S. No. 3|
Quality characteristics vary across type of bean. Generally, processors clean, wash, dry, and bag beans. Choose beans that have maintained their dryness, have not been exposed to moisture, are uniform in size, shape, and quality, and have a hard, solid texture.
- Stored properly, dried beans can last for over 20 years! If leaving beans in their original packaging, they will last for approximately 3–4 years. Dried beans that are fresher will have a better texture and flavor.
- Dried legumes should be stored in a dark, dry, cool place. Around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for storing dried legumes.
- Store dried beans in an airtight container to avoid pest infestations and deterioration.
Package Size Requirements
- 26–31 lb. Bushel Crates/Hampers
- 25–30 lb. Cartons/Crates
NY Grown & Certified Producers & Distributors
Growers & Processors
- Gennesee Valley Beans, Caledonia, NY
- gvbean.com • (585) 314-8509
- Gianforte Farm, Cazenovia, NY
- gianfortefarm.com • (315) 877-1328
- Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Hurley, NY
- hvfarmhub.org/about • (845) 331-1187
- Stone Ledge Farms, Leeds, NY
Preparation Suggestions & Recipes
- Prior to cooking, examine the beans for your recipe. Compost or discard any beans or foreign particles that are discolored or shriveled.
- Rinse the beans with water and then drain. Put the beans in a large pot and add fresh water to
- cover them.
- Soak beans overnight to speed up cooking time.
- Heat beans and water to boiling, then turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Since beans soak up water, you may need to add more water during cooking.
- Add seasonings to the beans while they cook. Be aware that adding salt during cooking can extend cook times and possibly toughen beans.
- When beans are tender but firm, they’re ready to eat!
- Add pureed white beans to smoothies and baked goods for added moisture and protein.
- Supplement pastas, egg dishes, salads, soups, and burritos with cooked beans.
- Combine with bread crumbs and eggs for black bean burgers.
- Roast and season kidney or black beans for a snack or salad topping.
Habichuelas Con Dulce (Dominican Sweet Beans)
- Put the beans and the water in which they boiled in a blender and puree. Strain the beans and get rid of the skins and undissolved solids. Pour the beans, coconut milk, evaporated milk, salt, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and sweet potatoes into a large pot and simmer over very low heat until the sweet potatoes are cooked through, and the mixture has a soup-like consistency, about 30 min. Stir regularly to avoid sticking.
- Add the raisins and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves (optional). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Chill before serving. Optional: Serve or garnish with milk cookies, sugar cookies, animal crackers, graham crackers, or similar-style cookie.
Adapted from Dominican Cooking
Sausage and White Bean Soup with Kale and Pesto
- In a large pot, add the olive oil, onions, and garlic and cook over medium heat until lightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Add the ground pork or chicken sausage and break up with a spoon; brown over medium-high heat until the meat is browned and crumbly, about 6 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, cayenne, thyme, sage, and bay leaves; cook for another 3 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken stock and beans. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the kale and salt and bring to a simmer; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until kale or greens are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
- Serve immediately. Drizzle with basil pesto if desired.
From The Bean Institute
Geomeun- kongjorim 검은콩조림 (Korean Braised Black Beans)
- Add the beans and 25 cups (6.25 quarts) of the bean-soaked water to a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. About 7 minutes into the cooking, it will boil over with lots of foam on the surface. Skim off the foam and crack the lid halfway open.
- Continue cooking the beans for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the beans are tender. Taste a sample and if it's too chewy, add more water and cook longer until the beans are very soft.
- Add garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and vegetable oil. Stir a few times and turn down the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the beans are infused with the seasonings.
- Add the rice syrup or maple syrup and turn up the heat to medium high. Cook for another 10 minutes, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon. At this point, the beans and seasoning sauce will get shiny and a little sticky. Don't overcook and be sure to leave some of the seasoning sauce so that the beans are well coated.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil and sesame seeds. Serve as a side dish with rice. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
Adapted from Chef Maangchi
Classroom: Song Idea!
Have each child take a turn choosing a type of bean (Black, Pinto, Jelly, etc.)
All participants can sit in a circle and alternate clapping hands and their knees to create a beat.
See this video example for the melody.
My dog ______ (Insert Bean Here. Example: My Dog Kidney) likes to roam
One day ______ didn't come home
When ______ came home she was so clean
Where oh where has ______ bean?
_____ bean, _____ bean, where oh where has _____ bean?
Repeat until every child has called out a new type of bean, or you run out of bean varieties!
Case Study: Dried Beans at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub
Situated on 1,500 acres of idyllic farmland in Hurley, New York, the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, or HVFH, is known not only as a space for food production, but also for agronomic education, building a just and resilient food system, and for exploring innovative farm technologies and growing methods.
In 2019, the team at HVFH began growing food-grade beans in a small quantity to test the potential to grow dried beans in the Hudson Valley.
By 2020, they were able to increase their production just in time to incorporate dried beans into the emergency food system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first couple years of production, the HVFH team found success in growing and drying just under an acre’s worth of black and pinto beans on the farm. However, they lacked the cleaning and bagging equipment necessary for full production, so they decided to send the beans further upstate to Seneca Grains to be cleaned and bagged. Some of the beans have been distributed by Seneca Grains to their customers, and some of the beans made their way back to the Farm Hub for retail-sized bagging through Mid-Hudson Works. In response to food insecurity caused by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the HVFH ramped up their production of dried beans to 55 acres. These beans were provided to Nourish NY and other local anti-hunger food programs around the Hudson Valley in order to feed the community and address food insecurity throughout the pandemic.
Currently, the HVFH is working toward cleaning and packaging their beans in-house, and are exploring additional outlets for their next harvest, which include schools and other institutions. The 2021 crop will be grown on 110 acres and include primarily black and pinto beans, all of which are NOFA-NY Certified Organic. If you are hoping to incorporate New York grown beans into your school menus in late 2021, look out for the Hudson Valley Farm Hub’s next crop of dried black and pinto beans!
Dried Beans in the Community
- The Bean Institute
- Buffalo Farm to School: Beans
- Cornell Cooperative Extension: Harvest NY Dried Bean Recipes
- Cornell Cooperative Extension: Harvest NY Harvest of the Month Marketing Materials
- NYU Seed Library: Bean Project
- Whatcom Farm to School Dried Bean Resources
- CIA Prochef: Beans
Dried Beans in the Classroom
- Agriculture in the Classroom: The Bean Book (Elementary)
- Buggy & Buddy: Bean Seed Dissection (Elementary)
- Network for a Healthy California: Harvest of the Month (Elementary)
- Utah Ag in the Classroom: Magic Beans and Giant Plants (Middle & High School)
- Vermont Harvest of the Month: Harvest Lessons (Grades K-4)
Farm to Institution Resources
- New York Department of Agriculture and Markets
- Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Program
- Local and Regional Food Systems at Cornell
- Natural Resources Conservation Service
- New York Farm Bureau
- Northeast Organic Farming Association
- Northeast Organic Farming Association- New York
- NY State Department of Education Farm to School
- NY School Nutrition Association Fresh Bites Publication
- SNAP-Ed YouTube Channel: FTS Recipes & Cooking Ideas
- Adirondack North Country Association
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County Farm to School
- Food & Health Network of South Central New York
- Capital Roots
- New York City Farm to School
Food Hubs & Aggregators
- An Indigenous Peoples History
- An Indigenous Peoples History
The New York Dried Beans Guide was supported by the NoVo Foundation, the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, and the members of American Farmland Trust.