There are several varieties. The chief are: -
(1) The kidney or haricot bean.
(2) The broad or Windsor bean.
(3) The scarlet runner.
Haricot beans almost rank first among vegetables as a nourishing article of diet. It holds its own against the beef and mutton of the animal kingdom. By most stomachs haricots are more easily digested than meat, while the comparative cost is greatly in favour of the former. The average composition of the haricot bean is as follows: -
Water .. .
Proteins . .. . .
Cellulose .. .
Haricot beans are only good when fresh, and the younger they are the better. When old they require prolonged boiling. If old beans are not tender after half an hour's boiling they should be made into a puree or pudding, dishes which are only suitable for a strong digestion. They must be eaten immediately after cooking. A stew made up of one part meat with ten parts of haricots is a much more nutritious and wholesome dish than a stew of all meat and no haricots. They are very useful for thickening soup or using as a salad flavoured by adding tomato or similar tables. Beans form the basis of a great many useful vegetarian dishes.
The "scarlet runner" is chiefly used as a green vegetable, being served up in the pods under the name of "haricots rus".
Soya beans are specially rich in proteins, contain a large amount of fat, but are deficient in starch. They are largely used as a bread substitute in diabetes. Several varieties of cheese are made from its vegetable casein.
Lentils are one of the most nutritious pulses. Their general composition is as follows: -
Water ... .
Proteins ... .
Carbohydrates .. .
Ash .. . .
They contain little sulphur, and are therefore less liable to cause flatulence than peas or beans. They have the further advantage of being specially rich in iron. There are two kinds of lentils, German and Egyptian. The former are green or olive coloured, the latter are red and smaller than the German. The German lentils are very savoury, and have a "meaty" flavour. Either kind can be used for making excellent soup and puree; like all legumes, they require to be steeped in water for twelve hours before boiling. They are sold as split lentils and also as lentil flour. They are an economical as well as a highly nutritious food.
Butter beans resemble small haricots, but are finer and boil down more quickly. They make a rich white soup, and may be used for savouries. They are also very good as a simple stew.