This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The common bean, Faba vulgaris, is vaguely believed, like the pea, to be a native of Egypt, perhaps because received from that country by the ancient Greeks, in whose authors there is a mention of it. Some have thought it indigenous to the neighborhood of the Caspian Sea; but the examples of the plant which occur in that region, though apparently wild, are quite as likely to be descendants of former cultivation; just as in England we find waifs and strays of garden plants in the country lanes. Representations of it occur among the drawings in the Egyptian tombs, showing that if not indigenous, it must have been imported at a very early period. It is alluded to in the Iliad, where the beating out of the seeds from the pods supplies the poet with a simile (xiii. 589). Theocritus seems to imply that the seed was sometimes parched, for eating, over the fire, saying in his sketch of a certain little feast, that a shall be roasted in the flame (vii. 66). In Theophrastus the bean is called or the Grecian, in order to preserve the distinction, which had now become important, between the leguminous fruit and the yet more famous produce of the sacred water lily of the Nile, the Nelumbo of modern botany, which was called The scriptural notices of the bean, both under its Hebrew name of pol, are two in number.
First, we have in the above-quoted verse from 2 Sam. xvii.; secondly, in Ezekiel iv. 9, "Take thou also unto thee wheat and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet . . . and make the bread thereof." The present quotation makes a third in which the lentil is mentioned. There can be no doubt that the common Broad or Windsor Bean is the species intended, - the good old-fashioned vegetable which, though somewhat coarse and untidy in habit, is able to give odor so soft and sweet to the passing zephyr, and which possesses also a feature of the utmost rarity in flowers - a patch of Color on the lateral petals so deeply purple as to seem black. With the exception of two or three orchids, first and foremost the Coelogyne pandurata, black occurs scarcely anywhere else among flowers. - Leo Grindon in Gardener's Chronicle.