Posts Tagged ‘beans’


Bean bewildered too long…

June 30, 2009

legumes and cerealsCulinary confession #76843.

I am deeply confused about beans. Dried ones, that is – I think I have a handle on the fresh green/flat/snake/broad variety. And I’m all over the lentil and the chick pea (kinda).

But for the life of me, I cannot fathom the difference between a great Northern bean and a haricot and a cannellini and a ‘white bean’ when I’m in the wretched grocer.

I have decided to get into dried bean cookery, when I have time, rather than going the canned route every time, especially when things need a longer cooking times and I don’t want them to fall apart.

But of course my search for haricots at the veg shop yielded only great Northerns, or ‘white beans’. Are these just differently named versions of the same thing? They sure look similar.

While we’re on the subject, a little while ago a friend asked me the difference between a fava bean and a (dried) broad bean, and I had no clue.

Are there actually really four million different kinds of beans, or are they just called different names in every region of every state of every country? Because when I see, on this helpful-looking site that:

“fava bean = broad bean = butter bean = Windsor bean = horse bean = English bean = fool = foul = ful = feve = faba = haba = haba”

I simply despair of ever getting to know my navy from my haricot from my cannellini, let alone my eye-of-goat bean from my black-eyed pea!

Is there some simple resource to turn to here? Do you have rules about when to use one bean in preference to another? Or an easy rule of thumb for substitution? Are beans that look very similar likely to be of similar density and cooking times and methods?

Or should I just give the whole beany game away and go back to the tinned ones – at least there are only five or six kinds of those!

Awaiting your expertise….

PS: If you stick with canned beans, you could do a lot worse than pop over to stonesoup for these excellent recipes – scroll to the end for extras. Stonesoup has it going on with beans in a can.