This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The common White Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), because of its seeds bearing a close resemblance to the kidney, and to a sexual gland, was worshipped by the Egyptians, who would not partake of it as a food. Furthermore, by reason of its marked tendency to cause sleepiness, the Jewish High Priest was forbidden to eat Beans on the day of Atonement. The black spot which is seen on these products was regarded as typical of death. In Italy, on November 2nd, All Souls Day, folk eat sweetmeats which are called "Favi dei mortei," or beans of the dead; this custom being a survival of an ancient pagan bean-eating rite. Also, a dish of them is left on the table all that night for the ghosts of the departed who may then be abroad. "The Bean plant,"says Dr. Thudicum, "is interesting, and instructive; its leaves droop at night, and expand again by day; thus there is perhaps some connection between the sensitiveness of this plant, and the fact that it eliminates a nutriment for brain, and muscles."A pithy proverb teaches that "A Bean at liberty is better than a comfit in prison;" whereat the prosaic Lord North drily remarked, he shouldn't care to eat a comfit, out of prison.
The Kidney, Or French Bean, when cooked with its pod, is "haricot vert," and when the seeds alone are served, either fresh, or after drying, they are "haricots blancs."The amount of vegetable cellulose in the pod makes its digestion tedious, so that this is a wasteful form of food. The Scarlet-runner (Phaseolus multiflorus) is allied to the French Bean, and when stewed makes Turkish Bean. The broad Windsor Bean is Faba vulgaris. Both beans, and peas are more readily digested if lemon-juice is added to them in cooking, which presently becomes converted into an alkaline salt, and thus assists to dissolve the starches. Marrowfat Beans stewed are very nutritious, and easily digested. Pick over carefully, and wash one quart of these beans, and soak them in water overnight; in the morning drain, add fresh cold water, and bring to the boil; drain again, and turn them into a four-quart stone jar; put in a generous cup of butter, two large tablespoonfuls of Porto Rico molasses, two tablespoonfuls of salt, less than a teaspoonful of pepper, and fill the jar with boiling water. Put it in the oven, covering the jar with a tin cover; it must be cooked in a slow oven for eight or nine hours.
The water should last until the beans are perfectly stewed, and when done there will be a good gravy left, about one-third of the depth of the beans in the jar; keep the beans covered for two or three hours whilst cooking; serve, if liked, with Chili sauce.
Beans and peas should be steeped in water overnight, or longer, and the water then thrown away. One of the best methods of cooking them is to stew them for about four hours; they should be next mixed with bread crumbs, and poured into a buttered dish for baking in the oven; the liquid should be retained, and, if properly managed, there will be just sufficient to moisten the bread crumbs. The sugar contained in Haricot Beans is phasio-mannite, identical with sugar as found in flesh-meat, and in brain tissue; in the presence of salt this develops lactic acid, as in sour milk, or meat which has been hung. It is termed "inosite," such as abounds regularly in the human brain. Unquestionably, therefore, this is a food for the brain, and should be conserved in the bean food by preventing its loss in cooking; for which reason green beans should never be boiled, but stewed, so as to retain all their immediate principles chemically available.
Dr. Krost, of Cleveland, U.S., tells about a case which troubled him much, of an elderly steamboat Captain, who had greatly exceeded with tobacco, mainly in chewing, and had been under medical treatment in a sanatorium, for rheumatism, but had lately suffered many a bad quarter of an hour through heart distress. Dr. Cushing, of Massachusetts, on being consulted, said, instantly, "I will give him a graft of my Phaseolus nanus, and if that doesn't help him I am very much mistaken."When Dr. Krost returned with the wonderful remedy, it had happened that meanwhile the old Captain had been attacked with several smothering spells, and was once given up for lost. The Doctor hurried to his side with the nostrum, and became astonished to find that within a few hours the sick man was able to get about again comfortably, declaring that he could now "lie on either side " (like an expert attorney). And what was this Phaseolus nanus? Dr. Cushing had been experimenting as to the medicinal effects of the common white kidney Bean. In his trial with it on himself, he had become nearly suffocated, and his heart gave him all forms of anxiety.
These were the leading symptoms, upon the strength of which some pellets prepared from the said Bean were administered thus successfully to the Captain.
A dish of dry Beans, soaked overnight, then boiled, and served with hot olive oil poured over them, is the regular main meal of many a poor family in Southern Italy. Our English Cottager teaches to "gather your runner Beans whilst they be straight," which is an old piece of rustic wisdom, founded on the fact learnt by experience, that as the pods become large, and old, they grow curly in shape, and tough. Beans, when bruised, and boiled with garlic, have been known to cure obstinate coughs which had defied other remedies. In Adam Bede, by George Eliot, we read of Alec eating broad Beans with his penknife, and finding in them a flavour that he would not exchange for the finest pineapple About Shropshire "blanks and prizes" are beans and bacon boiled together, and chopped up in union, being also called "blendings."Both peas and beans contain sulphur (whilst richer in mineral salts of potash, and lime than wheat, barley, or oats), and are therefore apt to provoke flatulent indigestion by the sulphuretted hydrogen gas which is engendered within the stomach, and bowels. Cayenne pepper dusted on such foods, or taken therewith in infusion as a tea, will stimulate a languid digestion, and will correct the flatulency often incidental to such a vegetable diet.
In Dickens' time costers were crying, "Fine Prooshan Blues,"as the very best kind of peas, all over London, and thus it came about that Sam Weller, in Pickwick, addressed his old father, Tony Weller, the stage-coachman, as "My Prooshan Blue" in words of endearment. Dried, or "parched" peas, as ordinarily supplied, are refractory enough, when eaten, to strain the digestive powers of an ostrich; the human stomach has to pass them on into the long-suffering intestines to De negotiated.
The Soy Bean (Glycina Soja) is of three varieties, black, green, and white. These Beans are to be boiled, then mixed with barley, or wheat, until, through fermentation, they become covered with fungi; then brine is added, and further fermentation goes on for a couple of years. The sauce thus concocted is afterwards boiled afresh, and put, when cool, into bottles, or casks. From a nutritive point of view it is superior to any other sauce in our markets. Soy is made all over Japan, and is partaken of by the entire Japanese population, almost with every meal. In China, Soy Cheese is extensively eaten, whilst various sauces, and pastes are prepared from the Beans.
"Les Soissonais sont heureux; Les Haricots sont chez eux".
An old fable said that Soy was made from certain beetles, and Londoners have improved this to "black beetles".
"There was an old person of Troy Whose drink was warm brandy, and soy, Which he took from a spoon, by the light of the moon In sight of the City of Troy".
Thus sings Edward Lear in his Book of Nonsense (1862), which book so delighted Ruskin with its "corollary carols, inimitable and refreshing, and perfect in rhythm,"that he admiringly declared, "I shall put him first of my hundred authors".
The common Bean is particularly rich in proteids (like animal food), and contains also much fatty matter, but very little starch; for which reason it makes an admirable substitute for bread in diabetes, a flour being prepared from it, and kneaded into loaves, or biscuits.