Beans, beans, wonderful beans: preparation and tips

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Making sure your beans are clean
Not many things can spoil a good bean dish better than a little unexpected, unplanned grit in the recipe! You will need to sort through your beans. You can go ahead and pour your beans in a colander and sort through them there before you rinse, or you can pour them out a little at a time on a cookie sheet or a light colored plate. When you sort through them, what you are looking for is small stones, small balls of dirt, bad discolored shriveled beans, etc. Once you feel confident you have only nice beans left, place beans in the colander and run under fresh water. Use your hands to move them around, making sure each bean is thoroughly rinsed. Now, your beans are ready to be soaked or cooked. Read on for the benefits of soaking.

To soak or not to soak
The pros to soaking are:  more even cooking and less gastrointestinal upset (if you are sensitive to beans).  The old fashioned way to soak beans is to simply soak overnight. In the morning, change the water and they are ready to cook! If you want to soak your beans quickly, boil them for a few minutes, then let sit for an hour. Change the water and cook as usual.

Digestion help
If you have a hard time digesting beans, you  may need to boil the beans and change the water several times. This will remove many of the complex sugars that cause gas. Also, it will be beneficial for you to cook the beans until they are very soft. Skimming the foam from the water may help as well.  Chewing well eases tummy troubles, as does eating mashed beans such as refried beans and hummus. Some herbs that  you can add to your beans to help you with digestion are ginger, epazote (Mexican tea), parsley, and coriander. The Japanese add Kombu, an edible seaweed (kelp) to aid in digestion. Meat tenderizer that contains papaya or bromelain may help as well.

More beany tips

Refrain from adding anything acidic, such as tomato sauce or tomatoes to your bean dish until it is fully cooked. If you add it before beans are done cooking, the beans will remain hard.
Also, a touch of baking soda will help your beans retain their color, but they won’t be as soft as they would be if you didn’t use it. In that case you may want to weigh one thing against another- aesthetics versus potential digestion upset.

Hopefully, you are a little more bean savvy than you were before. Now, go enjoy a good homemade pot of beans!

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