Beans, one of the Three Sisters
(part two of a three part series)
by Vicki Babcock
Native Americans speak of the “Three Sisters,” referring to corn, beans, and squash that were grown together. The following is another legend about the sisters.
Long ago there were three sisters who lived together in a field. Each sister was very different from the others, both in looks and temperament. Each had their own interests. They were bound by love for each other and they always stayed together. But a crow came one day and talked to the horses and the other animals. The sisters watched this behavior and, shortly after, the youngest sister disappeared. This left the two remaining sisters very sad. The crow returned to gather reeds at the water’s edge and the sisters watched. That night, the second sister disappeared. This left the eldest sister all alone to grieve. When the crow saw her sadness, he brought the sisters together again and they continue to be together to this day. The eldest stands tall as she always did watching out for the crow. They find strength together and each sustains the other. These three spirit sisters are represented in the crops themselves.
Native Americans used this form of “companion planting” for their three major crops, which they believe were gifts from the Creator. The corn provided a pole for the beans, which, in turn, nourished the soil. The squash provided cover to keep the soil moist and to deter weeds. Eaten together, the three crops provided a balanced diet.
Beans are one of the oldest known cultivated plants, dating back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians left the beans with their dead to sustain them through their journey and mention was made of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor in the Iliad, written in the late 8th century BCE. According to Wikipedia, the oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.
Beans from the New World include lima beans and common beans such as Navy or Pea Bean, Red Kidney, Pinto, Great Northern, Marrow, and Yellow Eye. Also included are our string beans (now stringless) and snap beans. Varieties you might find at farmers markets today include such interesting names as Dragon’s Tongue and Trail of Tears.*
Beans were an important source of protein for Native Americans. They are comparable to meat when it comes to calories. Unlike meat, however, they have a high fiber and water content which helps you to feel fuller faster. Adding beans to your diet will help you cut calories without feeling deprived. One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber, nearly half of the RDA recommended for women and about one-third for men. Fiber means that beans are digested slower, helping stave off hunger longer. In addition, beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger (Beans, Protein-rich Superfoods By Jenny Stamos Kovacs WebMD, the Magazine).
Beans are high in antioxidants, which help to control cell damaging free radicals in the body. According to Kovacs, free radicals have been implicated in everything from cancer and aging to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In a study by the U.S Department of Agriculture of the antioxidant content of over one-hundred common foods, three types of beans made the top four: small red beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans.
Nuff said? If you haven’t done so already, do your body a favor and add these powerhouses to your diet. You’ll be glad you did.
*Dragon’s tongue and Trail of Tears can be found at Solon Market when in season. Please check for availability.
O-Beans! Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies
Beans in cookies? You bet! Try these for a healthy choice!
Makes 3 dozen
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup Great Northern beans, drained, liquid reserved
3 tbsp. butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. pkg. semi sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Process beans and 2 tbsp reserved liquid in a blender until smooth. Combine bean puree, butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl and beat well. Stir in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake 15 to 17 minutes until centers are firm and edges are lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Unlike most cookies which are best fresh from the oven, these are better the second day. Best served at room temperature.
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