Crop Spot: Beans

Beans are just as magical as the song proclaims – although there is still a debate on whether they should be classified as a fruit. These legumes are grown in large quantities in Michigan – in fact, we’re the top producers in the nation of black beans, cranberry beans and small red beans

Health Benefits of Beans

According to MSU Extension, beans have less than 2 grams of fat in each half-cup serving – and eight grams of protein, which is a great way to reduce fat in your diet! They’re also a solid source of fiber, and contain nutrients from folic acid to potassium. 

Beans in the Garden

Beans can fix their own nitrogen in soil, making them ideal vegetables to grow if you’re not sure of your soil health. For dried beans, the pods dry on the vine, and can be hung for further drying. They need a bit of processing to remove the beans from the shells, an act called “threshing” – try this method recommended by the Farmer’s Almanac! 

Cooking Dried Beans

While cooking with dried beans does take more planning, the reward is more flavor, as you can cook them with stock, aromatics, or even bacon! ( Check out this through guide to cooking dried beans from Serious Eats. ) Kitchen tools like pressure cookers can make the process quicker, but there are also plenty of Michigan companies producing locally canned beans, like Omena Organics or Eden Foods, for additional ease! 

Recipe: Bean Party with Smoked Whitefish 

  1. Cook your dried beans. For the stovetop, rinse and soak your beans overnight with at least an inch of water above your beans. The next day, bring to a boil with salt and cook for one hour, or until al dente (soft, but still holding its shape.) Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water. If you’d like to cook your beans on the same day, this is a great guide for using your Instant Pot!
  2. While your beans are cooking, dice your red onion, and slice your celery stalks thinly. Remove your whitefish fillet from the bone, and add together in a bowl. 
  3. In a separate bowl, add your mustard, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and the juice of your lemon. Whisk together, season with salt and pepper, and taste, adjusting as needed.
  4. Chop your fresh parsley, and once your beans are drained and rinsed, add both to your bowl with the veggies and whitefish. Toss together, and slowly add your dressing as needed. Save any left over dressing for salad! 
  5. Serve as is, or on freshly toasted wheat bread.

Dried Bean Storage 

Beans are a great way to enjoy the summer’s harvest, even in cold winter months, as they store for quite a long time. Keep your dry beans in a dry and cool pantry location for the best storage! 

How do you incorporate Michigan beans in your diet? Start by finding a local source near you! Or join us for our upcoming event to talk everything beans (and rice and grains!) with Michigan chef and author Abra Berens for our Grist Book Talk on January 25th

Claire Butler is the Communications & Outreach Specialist for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]

Further Reading: 

Soup for the Soul: Ham and Whitefish Soup

Totally Doable Meal Prep Tips for 2021