Beans are a wonderful way to add high-quality, plant-based protein to your diet. They are high in iron, B vitamins and fiber, and are versatile enough that you may never tire of them. Beans stay fresh longer when stored in a cool, dark place (rather than on your countertop). Don’t use beans that are more than a year old, as their nutrient content and digestibility are much lower. Also, old beans will not soften, even with thorough cooking.
1. Check beans for rocks and broken beans, then rinse.
2. Soak for 6 hours or overnight, using 4 cups of water per cup of beans. Small and medium-size beans may require less soaking—4 hours.
Note: If you’ve forgotten to presoak the beans, you can bring them to a boil in ample water to cover. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for 1 hour.
3. Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Always discard any loose skins before cooking, as this will increase digestibility.
4. Place the beans in a heavy pot and add 3-4 cups of fresh water.
5. Bring to a full boil and skim off the foam.
6. Add a small piece of kombu (seaweed) and a few bay leaves or garlic cloves for flavor and better digestibility.
7. Cover, lower the temperature and simmer for the suggested time. Check beans 30 minutes before the minimum cooking time. Beans are done when the middle is soft and easy to squeeze.
8. About 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, add 1 teaspoon of unrefined sea salt.
9. Cook until beans are tender.
A chart on soaking and cooking time for beans here.
Some people have difficulty digesting beans and legumes and develop gas, intestinal problems, irritability, and unclear thinking. Here are a few techniques for preparing and eating legumes to alleviate most problems.
• Chew beans thoroughly and know that even small amounts have high nutritional and healing value.
• Avoid giving legumes to children under 18 months because they have not developed the gastric enzymes to digest them properly. Except in the case of an allergy, soybean products, fresh peas, and green beans are usually tolerated.
• Experiment with your ability to digest beans. Smaller beans, like adzuki, lentils, mung beans, and peas digest most easily. Pinto, kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, lima, and black beans are harder to digest and should be eaten only occasionally. Soybeans and black soybeans are the most difficult beans to digest.
• Experiment with combinations, ingredients and seasonings. Legumes combine best with green or non-starchy vegetables and seaweeds.
• Season with unrefined sea salt, miso, or soy sauce near the end of cooking. If added at the beginning, the beans will not cook completely. Salt is a digestive aid when used correctly.
• Adding fennel or cumin near the end of cooking helps prevent gas.
• Adding kombu or kelp seaweed to the beans helps improve flavor and digestion, adds minerals and nutrients, and speeds up the cooking process.
• Pour a little apple cider, brown rice or white wine vinegar into the water in the last stages of cooking. This softens the beans and breaks down protein chains and indigestible compounds.