Appetites: Beans really are a ‘magical fruit’

And Minnesota farmers are growing a surprising variety of them.

Greek many bean salad
Beth Dooley prepared a Greek many bean salad.
Beth Dooley

Technically, beans are legumes.

But Beth Dooley, author of the cookbook, “The Northern Heartland Kitchen,” said beans are the only food the U.S Department of Agriculture classifies as both a protein and a vegetable. She said the benefits of beans are pretty magical.

“They’re nutrient-dense, they fight cancer, they're heart-healthy because they're loaded with fiber, they improve gut health,” she said. “There's statistics that show that they help stabilize blood sugar and they lower cholesterol.”

When beans aren’t fighting diseases, they’re saving the environment. Dooley said beans provide farmers with ecological services.

“They're called nitrogen-fixers, they help remediate soil,” she said. “So our farmers are integrating them, rotating them into our crops, so they don't have to use as many chemicals and fertilizers.”

Most importantly, the superfood is pretty versatile.

“You can play with the different nuanced flavors of the different varieties of beans,” she said. “They also are relatively neutral, so they will accommodate almost any seasoning you like.”

Dooley offered a couple of different recipes with different types of beans that you can create for a zesty side dish, or to substitute a meat entree as the main event.

To hear her suggestions and learn about Minnesota-grown beans you can find at your co-op or farmers market, click play on the audio above.

Greek Many Bean Salad

Serves 4 to 6

2 cups of either cooked* navy beans, black eyed peas, or a mix of cooked beans (can also use one 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra of virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely of chopped parsley

1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, toss the beans with the onion. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. Toss with the beans, then toss in the parsley, oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes before serving or refrigerate overnight. This will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for about a week.

* To cook the beans: Put 1 cup of dry beans into a pot and cover with 4-inches of water. Allow to stand overnight. Drain, return to the pot, and cover with 4-inches of water. Set over high heat; bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 45 to 50 minutes. Drain and proceed with the recipe.

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