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All you need to know about beans

Let’s take a look at the beauty of beans with our suppliers Biona, who make a range of tinned beans. Built on an unwavering commitment to 100% organic, ethically and sustainably sourced food, founders Noel McDonald and Donata Berger started Biona in 1992. The company now produces over 350 products and is sold in 30 countries.

Biona organically farms over 7000 acres (that’s roughly 2833 hectares) of land to produce these products. And it’s not just the land that benefits from these natural and organic practices, the farmers themselves do too. As Noel McDonald puts it, “through our unwavering commitment to organic, we provide long-term support and security to our partner farmers.” Biona’s organic farming also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the restricted use of chemical sprays which contribute to global warming.

What are beans?

Let’s begin by finding out what exactly are beans, pulses and legumes. Legumes are the botanical family that includes pulses, beans, and peas. Pulses are the dried seeds of legume plants, in fact the latin word ‘puls’ means seed. Beans are a type of pulse. We’re going to focus on three types of bean in particular:

Black beans – Sometimes known as turtle beans or even black turtle beans because of their shiny black shells, black beans are originally from the Americas and are found in a number of Latin American dishes. The beans have a dense texture and a mellow flavour that takes on the flavours of the dish they’re part of. If you’re wondering how to cook canned black beans, they’re versatile. You can use them in soups, stews, broths, and chilli. 

Cannellini beans – Cannellini beans are also known as white kidney beans. Not only does the Italian name sound better, but they are found in a number of popular Italian dishes. This ranges anything from soups (especially Minestrone) and stews to salads and pasta dishes. They are fluffier in texture than red kidney beans and have a nutty, earthy flavour. 

Edamame beans – These are actually soya beans that are picked when young, so before they have fully ripened and hardened. Because they are not quite ripe, they have a more ‘vegetable’, somewhat pea-like taste than many beans. The question, can you eat raw edamame beans? is commonly asked. The answer is no, because raw soya beans (like raw kidney beans) are toxic – they must be cooked before being eaten. Naturally, all Biona beans are precooked. 

Are Cannellini beans good for you?

Yes, they are. These capsules of goodness are a good source of protein, iron, folate and phosphorus.

Black beans are also nutritious beans, rich in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and dietary fibre. 

Edamame beans provide a great source of protein, dietary fibre, and all nine essential amino acids, not to mention folate, manganese and vitamin K, plus a host of other micronutrients.

Why buy tinned beans?

We hope you’ve learned that beans are tasty and full of nutritional benefits. Most however have a long cooking time (edamame beans and broad beans exceptions, taking only five minutes to boil). Black and cannellini beans (not to mention pinto beans and so on) both need soaking, usually overnight, and then they require an hour or two of cooking before they are edible. This is why canned beans are so handy. You get all the benefits of beans, without all the prep time.

Some useful points for cooking with beans: Remember to adjust any recipes that call for dried beans, as tinned beans are double the weight of dried beans. Also, add your beans to a casserole or slow-cooked dish later than you would with dried beans because they are already cooked and this will prevent them from disintegrating. Finally, rinse any beans that are stored in brine under the tap to reduce sodium in your meal. 

Where are beans grown?

Beans are grown across the world, with some climates being more suitable for some beans than others. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, India is the largest producer of pulses in the world. In the UK we mostly grow fava beans, marrowfat peas and large blue peas. Biona’s black, cannellini and edamame beans are all grown in Italy, using organic methods.

Do you have any interesting facts about beans?

Beans have been grown by humans since the neolithic period, with evidence of pea seeds found in what is now Turkey dating from 7,000BC to 6,000BC. They finally got the acknowledgment that was their due when 2016 was designated International Year of Pulses by the FAO. As well as being a great source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans, growing beans uses much less water than meat. The beans used in baked beans are navy beans (in latin phaseolus vulgaris), also known as common beans. 

What is the best way to prepare beans?

Really there is no best way to prepare tinned beans any more than there is a best way to make a cup of tea. It’s all a matter of taste. But remember that you can use beans in unexpected ways. If you were wondering how to make vegan brownies, you can use the fudgy, gooey texture of black beans to create ridiculously tasty, plant-based chocolate brownies that are also full of protein, fibre, and omega-3s.

Feeling inspired? Try the below recipes using some commonly found beans…

Chilli Beans with All the Trimmings

Using four tins of different beans, this dish is tasty, nutritious and ridiculously quick to prepare.

Get the recipe >

Shredded Ham, Greens and Cannellini Bean Soup

If you’re out of cannellini beans, you can add black beans (or your favourite bean) instead. Hearty and warming, it’s a great way to use up any leftover gammon at Christmas.

Get the recipe >

Sausage and Bean Casserole

This is a deliciously hearty meal with beans and sausages cooked in a herby tomato sauce. You can swap the sausages for chicken thighs for a Provenҫal-style stew

Get the recipe >

Black Bean Brownies

Rich, indulgent and chocolatey. These fellas are packed with the goodness of black beans, yet miss none of the taste of a classic chocolate brownie.

Get the recipe >

Hungry for more? Check out these delicious Winter warmers.


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