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Fabaceae
Bean PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 May 2009 06:03
Bean
Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae) used for food or feed. They are also known as legumes.
 

Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae) used for human food or animal feed.

Although "beans" usually means the seeds of bean plants, it can also mean (especially in the US) the whole young pods of bean plants, which if picked before the pods ripen and dry, can be tender enough to eat whole, whether cooked or raw. Thus the word "green beans" means "green" in the sense of unripe (many are not in fact green in color), as the beans inside the pods of green beans are often too small to form a significant part of the cooked vegetable.

"Bean" can be used as a near-synonym of "pulse", an edible legume, though the term "pulses" is usually reserved for leguminous crops harvested for their dry grain and usually excludes crops mainly used for oil extraction (like soybeans and peanuts) or those used exclusively for sowing purposes (such as clover and alfalfa). Leguminous crops harvested green for food, such as snap peas, snow peas, etc., are classified as vegetable crops.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants, broad beans having been grown at least since ancient Egypt, and the common bean for six thousand years in the Americas.

Many modern dry beans come from old-world varieties of broad beans, but most of the kinds commonly eaten fresh come from the Americas, being first seen by Christopher Columbus during his conquest of a region of what may have been the Bahamas, where they were grown in fields.

Many edible beans, including broad beans and soybeans, contain oligosaccharides (particularly Raffinose and Stachyose), a type of sugar molecule also found in cabbage. An anti-oligosaccharide enzyme is necessary to properly digest these sugar molecules. As a normal human digestive tract does not contain any anti-oligosaccharide enzymes, consumed oligosaccharides are typically digested by bacteria in the large intestine. This digestion process produces flatulence-causing gases as a byproduct. This aspect of bean digestion is the basis for the children's rhyme "Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit."
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