Beans are one of the oldest sources of food known to man. They have been cultivated in Egypt, the Americas and Asia for more than 6,000 years. Beans are leguminous plants belonging to the family of Leguminosae. They are warm seasonal plants that grow as bushes or climbers or runners. Beans grow at a rapid rate, are rich in protein but are prone to pest attacks.
Cowpeas are native of Asia and Africa and were introduced to North America from Africa. They are grown largely in the southern states of the U.S. Also known as black-eyed peas, they require a warm climate and grow in shaded areas also. Cowpeas require little maintenance and are drought resistant. These bushy plants are rich in protein and they also help in nitrogen fixation of soil.
A native of the Mediterranean, chickpeas spread later to India and Ethiopia. They are also known as garbanzo bean. The plant grows well in cooler climates and is of medium size with feathery leaves. They contain high levels of molybdenum, manganese and fiber. They help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The small yellow rounded beans are used in salads, soups and dishes.
The name is tracked to Lima, the capital of Peru, where they are believed to have originated. Lima beans grow in warmer climates when compared to other beans and require good watering. They exist in vine and bush varieties. They are white and light green in color, with a smooth texture and hence also known as butter bean. They are commonly used in salads, soups and cooked dishes.
Also known as fava beans or horse beans, broad beans are natives to the Mediterranean. They later moved to India and Europe. Today they are grown all over the world. Broad beans require a cooler climate. So they are cultivated in late fall, winter and spring. The plant helps in nitrogen fixation and is generally used in salads, soups and stews.
Soybean was cultivated in China more than 5,000 years ago. Now it is grown and cultivated commercially all over the world, with the U.S. being the major producer in the world. They require tropical climate and grows well on moist alluvial soil. They have the most complete protein content when compared with other food and is considered to be a substitute to meat diet. They are dried and used for cooking and are also packaged in various forms like meal, oil, milk and flour.
Kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans and black beans are known as common beans because they all come from the same type of ancestor from Peru. From South America it spread to Europe and later to Asia and Africa. They are grown in sunny and sheltered areas with soil rich in organic matter and need support for climbing. Apart from the rich protein content, they also contain cholesterol lowering fiber, iron and molybdenum.