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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agricultural Facts

Legumes


Legumes
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  • Beans are among the oldest of cultivated crops. The remains of some found in the Middle East may be 7,500 years old.
  • Everywhere in the world people depend on legumes for food - and have for thousands of years.
  • Peas, beans and lentils are known as pulses and also as legumes. They are the seeds of plants belonging to the family Leguminosae, which gets its name from the characteristic pod, or legume, that protects the seeds while they are forming and ripening.
  • With approximately 13,000 species, the family Leguminosae is the second largest in the plant kingdom.
  • Legumes provide us with food, medicines, oils, chemicals, timber, dyes and ornamental garden plants.
  • All legumes grow in pods which split into two valves, with the seeds attached to the lower edge of one of the valves.
  • The Greeks and Romans used the broad bean for balloting. Black beans signified opposition, and white beans signified agreement. This custom carried over into England in the election of the king and queen for Twelfth Night and other celebrations and was taken to the New World colony at Massachusetts Bay, where Indian beans were used.
  • In Oklahoma we grow several varieties of legumes - some in our gardens, some in our fields, some to feed our animals and some to feed ourselves.
  • Farmed legumes fall into two classes: forage and grain. Forage legumes, like alfalfa, clover and vetch, are sown in pasture and grazed by livestock. Grain legumes are cultivated for their seeds and are also called "pulses." The seeds are used for humans and animals to eat, for producing oils or for other industrial purposes.
  • Beans are high in fiber and contain a higher percentage of protein than most other plant foods, but they need whole grains to make them complete. Whole grains contribute different amino acids than beans, but in combination they make complete proteins. Ancient people must have known this, since they always grew whole grains like wheat alont with their legumes.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration recommends that we include plenty of whole grains and legumes in our diets.
Blackeyed Peas
  • Blackeyed peas are Oklahoma's number one vegetable crop.
  • Cowpea is another name for black-eyed-peas. Other names are China bean and black eyed bean. They are native to Asia and Africa, but have been cultivated since ancient times in China. They are grown in Oklahoma and throughout the southern U.S. as a hay crop and for human consumption.
  • Black-eyed beans have a scented aroma, creamy texture and distinctive flavor. These beans are characterized by their kidney shaped, white skin with a small black eye and very fine wrinkles. Originally from Africa, it is one of the most widely dispersed beans in the world. Black-eyed peas are really a type of pea, which gives it its distinctive flavor and rapid cooking potential, with no pre-soaking needed.
  • In Senegal, where the blackeyed pea is know as the "niebe," it is known as "the meat of the poor" because of its high protein content. The bean is eaten in fritters, in stews and sometimes mixed into bread.
  • The mature bean contains 23-25 percent protein, 50-67 percent starch, and B vitamins, including folic acid. It is also rich in essential micro-elements, such as iron, calcium and zinc.
  • Stockbreeders keep the stalks, which are also rich in proteins and make good forage for cattle.
  • Cowpeas provide strong yields, even in hot and dry conditions. The plants' roots infuse nitrogen into the soil.
Garden Peas
  • Peas are usually the first vegetable to be planted in the garden in the early spring. They like cool weather and must be harvested before it starts getting hot. Peas taste better when they are grown while the weather is still cool.
  • Peas are an excellent source of vitamins A, B complex and C.
  • Peas grow on vines. They grow best when they have something to climb, like a fence, a trellis or even dried tree branches stuck in the ground.
  • Peas grow in pods. In some varieties, like snow peas and sugar snaps, the pods taste as good as the peas themselves, In other varieties, the peas are shelled - removed from the shells.
  • Green garden peas are a valuable source of protein, iron and insoluble fiber. Sugar snap peas and the like, contain less protein, but are an excellent source of iron and vitamin C.
Lima Beans
  • Lima beans originated in Peru and have been grown there since 6000 B.C. The name lima bean comes from the capital city of Peru, Lima. Lima beans are often nicknamed chad beans or butter beans. In the southern part of the United States, lima beans are almost always called butter beans, even in markets and restaurants.
  • Lima beans come in three main varieties: large, small, and dwarf. Large lima beans are green or speckled. The speckled kind have a creamy texture and a strong earthy flavor, unlike the pale green ones. Small lima beans are also called sieva beans and have several other nicknames, such as Carolina bean, civet, seewee, and sivvy. Most small limas are pale green. Small limas are less starchy than the larger varieties. Dwarf beans, also known as butter peas, are white and speckled and the least starchy of the limas.
  • Fresh lima beans are difficult to find in the United States but can occasionally be found at farmers markets. It is easier to find lima beans in the southern United States than anywhere else in the country. Most lima beans are dried, canned, or frozen.
  • Lima beans should never be eaten raw. They contain linamarin (also called cyanogen), which releases a cyanide compound when the seed coat is opened. The United States sets regulations to restrict commercially grown lima beans to those varieties with very low levels of this linamarin. Cooking deactivates this compound. The most common methods of preparation are boiling and microwaving.
Mung Beans
  • Mung beans are a minor commodity in Oklahoma. They are grown mostly for livestock feed.
  • Mung beans are also the beans sprouted and sold as bean sprouts.
Snap Beans
  • Green beans are available year round, with a peak season of May to October. Green beans are also called string beans and snap beans. Green beans were once called string beans because a fibrous string ran along the seam of the bean. The string was noticeable when you snapped off the ends. The snapping noise is the reason for its other nickname. Today they are stringless. Green beans are also available canned and frozen.
  • Snap beans originated in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. By 1492, they had spread northward to the southwestern United States and then spread eastward from Florida to Virginia. U.S. farmers began breeding the bean around 1890 because of interest in bean varieties with stringless pods.
Why Do Beans Give You Gas?

"Beans, eaten, are a extremely windy meat." -Culpepper, 1653

  • Beans have complex sugard in them that can't be digested by human digestive enzymes. These sugars sail untouched through the upper intestine, only to be met in the lower intestine by hungry bacteria. The bacteria eat the sugar, and they give off gas.
  • As with many vegetables, the more beans you eat, the more your body will become adapted to them. Dietitians recommend introducing these foods to your diet a little at a time to give your body a chance to get used to them. You can also reduce gas by soaking an drinsing dry beans before cooking them. Fresh beans produce less gas.