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An Important Survival Food for Hard Times

Copyright July 1, 2013 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.


Assortment of Beans North American Indians were eating beans and corn long before the first European settlers arrived on the North American continent. It is interesting to note that if beans and corn are both eaten during the same meal then they digest together inside the stomach and they combine to form a complete protein that helps the human body remain healthy.

Beans contain an average of 230 calories per cup of cooked beans. Beans are low in fat (less than 2%) and they contain no cholesterol. One cup of cooked beans provides an average of 60% of your daily fiber requirements, 30% protein, 14% carbohydrates, 3 vitamins, and 7 minerals. They also contain small amounts of 6 other vitamins and 2 other minerals. Complete nutritional data is near the end of this article.

Beans digest more slowly than most other foods and therefore they can help you from feeling hungry again for a longer period time. This has two significant advantages:
  1. Not feeling hungry could help you control your appetite and your weight.
  2. Not feeling hungry during a serious hard times event could help you conserve your food and not feel as if you were being forced to endure extreme hardship conditions.

Complete High Quality Proteins and Amino Acids

Milk, cheese, and eggs are complete high quality proteins.

However, beans should be eaten with a complementary protein food, such as rice, wheat, or corn. These combinations provide a balanced high quality protein that is extremely beneficial to the human body.

Some examples of high quality protein combinations are:
1. Beans with cornbread.
2. Beans inside a corn tortilla (or burrito) shell.
3. Beans inside a flour tortilla (or burrito) shell.
4. Beans and biscuits.
5. Beans and rice.

When beans are eaten with rice, wheat, or corn then they also supply essential amino acids that are needed by the human body.

Eating beans, peas, or lentils on a regular basis has been shown to reduce cholesterol, and to reduce the chance of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Canned Beans or Dry Beans

Canned beans are already fully cooked. However, as with most other canned food products, after opening a can of beans you should boil the beans for ten minutes to kill any potential life threatening toxins that may be in the beans. Since the beans are already fully cooked they will not require any additional water to cook them and they can be ready to eat in as little as fifteen minutes.

Dry beans must be rinsed and soaked overnight in clean water. Then the soak water must be discarded. The beans can then be cooked in fresh water for at least one hour but they will be tastier and easier to digest if they are cooked between 3 to 8 hours over very low heat. Therefore dry beans require a significant amount of water to make them edible. If you anticipate having a limited amount of clean water during a hard times event then dry beans may not be an option for your family.

One important advantage of dry beans is that they can be planted as garden seed and some of them will sprout (germinate) and they will produce a new crop of fresh beans at the end of the summer growing season. This would be a very significant advantage during a hard times event because a family could replenish one of their important food items on a continual basis year after year after year. (Note: Instructions on how to dry freshly harvested beans are included later in this article.) (Note: The percentage of dry beans that will germinate will decline each year they are in storage and after several years none of the dry beans will germinate. A dry bean germination experiment is included later in this article.)

Shelf Life of Dry Beans

A reasonable long-term food storage environment is one where the temperature remains somewhere between 60 to 75 Fahrenheit (or 15.5 to 24 C), and the area is dry and dark, and the area is free of rodents.

During their first five years of storage, dry beans will gradually lose most of their original vitamins. However, they will retain their calories, carbohydrates, protein, and minerals. This is based on research studies that have been conducted on similar foods. At the current time there are no dry beans nutritional degradation studies available to the general public.

With the passage of time dry beans will gradually and slowly become drier and drier and they will lose what little moisture they originally had and they will lose some of their natural oils. They will eventually begin to shrink and shrivel. At some point they will completely lose their ability to absorb water and when that happens then they can't be reconstituted into a normal edible bean. (Note: Some people recommend grinding the shriveled dry beans into bean flour when this happens. If you follow this advice then you must heat the bean flour to a temperature above 212 Fahrenheit (or 100 C) for a minimum of 10 minutes in whatever recipe you use the bean flour or you may get very sick from some of the toxins in the beans.)

Dry beans should be sealed in a container where the air has been replaced with nitrogen or with carbon dioxide. Or dry beans should be vacuum sealed inside a plastic container or inside a vacuum storage bag. If any one of these three storage methods is used then the following benefits will be achieved:
  1. Any tiny insect eggs that may be mixed in with the dry beans will die due to the lack of oxygen and this will eliminate a potential future insect infestation problem.
  2. Oxygen and light are the primary causes of beans losing their color. Oxygen also causes the oils in beans to become rancid. Therefore eliminating the oxygen will minimize these two problems.
  3. The edible shelf life of the bean will be extended well beyond ten years. Some of the companies that sell dry beans for long-term storage advertise that their storage method will extend the edible shelf life of dry beans to twenty years or more.

Two Long-Term Food Storage Experiments on Dry Pinto Beans

Experiment One (http://www.yourfamilyark.org/cooking-basic-foot-storage/dry-beanslegumes):
Some dry pinto beans were purchased in 5 gallon buckets and in #10 cans from the same supplier at the same time. The buckets and the cans of beans were divided between a brother and a sister and they were stored for 11 years in two totally different storages environments. One storage environment was appropriate for long term-food storage but the other storage environment was not acceptable for long-term food storage. After 11 years the beans that had been stored in the good storage environment looked good and they tasted delicious when they were cooked. After 11 years the beans in the poor storage environment were dark, broken, and they had a shiny appearance, and they tasted bitter when they were cooked. The conclusion drawn from this experiment was that the storage environment has a significant impact on the edible life expectancy of dry pinto beans.

Experiment Two (http://ift.confex.com/ift/2005/techprogram/paper_28584.htm):
A study by Brigham Young University reported that dry pinto beans that were canned in an oxygen free environment lost a small amount of their quality after 30 years in a controlled storage environment. Over 80% of the people on a 58-member consumer taste test panel rated the taste of the 30 year old pinto beans as being acceptable.

My Personal Experience with Aged Dry Pinto Beans

Six Groups of Beans Over the past 15 years I have occasionally purchased dry pinto beans and put them into storage. A picture of some dry pinto beans randomly selected from six batches of pinto beans is shown on the right.

The temperature of the area where the dry pinto beans were stored was always between 60 to 72 F (or 15.5 to 22.2 C). The storage area was dry and dark and free from insects and rodents.

The beans were not vacuum sealed. All the beans were stored inside two plastic bags. The inner plastic bag was the same bag the beans were purchased in. The outer plastic bag was a heavy-duty zipper freezer bag. The purpose of the double bagging was to protect the beans from coming into contact with fresh air and humidity inside the food storage area.

The picture shows that dry pinto beans gradually became darker in color when they were stored in an environment that was not oxygen free. The presence of air inside the plastic storage bags allowed the beans to slowly turn dark.

I conducted two experiments on the beans that are shown in the above picture and the results from those two experiments will be summarized next.

My Cooking Experiment with Aged Dry Pinto Beans

I decided to test some of the dry pinto beans from six different bags of beans I had in storage. The beans were sorted and any broken or cracked beans were discarded. Then 100 dry pinto beans were randomly selected from each batch of beans and those beans were weighed on a scale and measured in a cup (dry weight and dry volume). The beans were then rinsed in clean water and the rinse water was discarded. The beans were then soaked in three times the volume of clean water for 10 hours. Then the soak water was discarded and the beans were weighed and measured a second time (wet weight and wet volume). Then the beans were cooked in four times as much water as beans. As the beans cooked additional water was added to the cook pot when it was needed. The beans were cooked until they were soft and tender and they could be easily pierced with a fork. When the beans were done the remaining water was drained off the beans and the beans were weighed and measured a third time (cooked weight and cooked volume). Then some of the beans were tasted and eaten. The results of my cooking experiment are summarized in the following table:

Summary Copyright 2013 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
Cooking Results on Six Samples of 100 Dry Pinto Beans of Different Ages

Age of Dry BeansDry
Just Purchased 1.6 oz. 2.9 oz. 3.1 oz. 2.0 oz. 4.0 oz. 5.1 oz. Very Good
1 Year Old 1.5 oz. 2.8 oz. 4.1 oz. 1.8 oz. 3.8 oz. 4.6 oz. Very Good
2 Years Old 1.3 oz. 2.7 oz. 3.2 oz. 1.5 oz. 3.7 oz. 4.1 oz. Very Good
6.5 Years Old 1.5 oz. 2.9 oz. 3.8 oz. 2.0 oz. 4.0 oz. 5.0 oz. Good
14 Years Old 1.3 oz. 2.6 oz. 3.7 oz. 1.5 oz. 3.7 oz. 4.5 oz. Good
15 Years Old 1.4 oz. 2.6 oz. 3.3 oz. 1.8 oz. 3.7 oz. 4.2 oz. Good

The beans 2 years old and younger were done after they had been cooked for 3 hours.
The beans that were 6.5 years old were done after they had been cooked for 4 hours.
The beans 14 and 15 years old were done after they had been cooked for 7 hours.

Note: If dry beans that are 2 years old or younger are slow cooked over very low heat for 7 hours then they will be so soft that they will fall apart when you try to pick them up with a fork. However, the dry beans that were 14 and 15 years old were cooked for 7 hours over very low heat and only about 1/3 of the beans were so soft that they fell apart, and about 2/3 of the beans were still slightly firm and they required a small amount of pressure to penetrate them with the prongs of a fork.

The above experiment shows that dry pinto beans will absorb their original weight in water during soaking, which means they will double in weight and in size. After they are fully cooked they will have absorbed an additional 30% of water weight. Soaking the beans in water and cooking the beans does not add to their nutritional value. Soaking and cooking only increases the weight and volume of the original dry beans.

The above experiment also suggests that as dry pinto beans gradually age it will take more time to properly cook them so they can be eaten and digested.

The experiment also suggests that the taste of cooked pinto beans will gradually decline the longer the dry beans remain in storage. However, I was the only individual who participated in the above taste test so this taste information is only an opinion and it is nothing more than an opinion.

The edibility of dry beans is related to the ability of the dry beans to absorb water. If the beans can absorb water then they will reconstitute (or rehydrate) properly, and they will cook properly, and they will be soft enough to eat and to digest. As dry beans age they will gradually lose some of their original moisture. At some point in time they will begin to shrivel and shrink and they will become so hard that they can no longer absorb moisture. When this happens the beans are no longer suitable for cooking. However, it may be possible to grind the shriveled dry beans into bean flour and then thoroughly cook the bean flour in a recipe to make them edible. Since I keep my dry beans in a reasonable environment for food storage, I have never had any dry beans reach this shriveled state. Therefore I cannot make any comment on the advantages or the shortcomings of grinding shriveled dry beans into flour.

My Germination (Sprouting) Experiment with Aged Dry Pinto Beans

The following results are from another experiment I conducted to determine the impact of age on the average germination percentage of dry pinto beans. Six samples of 100 dry beans were selected from six different bags of pinto beans that had been stored for different periods of time. The beans were selected on a random basis from a handful of beans taken from each bag of beans. The only beans that were discarded were beans that were broken or cracked. The beans were soaked in clean lukewarm water for one hour. Then the beans were placed between two damp paper towels to give them a chance to sprout. The paper towels were kept damp during the entire experiment. The temperature inside the germination room varied between 74 to 78 F (or 23.3 to 25.6 C) during the experiment. The following table summarizes the results after seven days of germination:

Summary Copyright 2013 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
Total Percent of Dry Pinto Beans that Sprouted After the Following Number of Days

Age of Dry Beans1 Day2 days3 Days4 Days5 Days6 days 7 Days
Just Purchased 0% 13% 52% 73% 88% 93% 95%
1 Year Old 0% 19% 46% 79% 92% 95% 95%
2 Years Old 0% 14% 62% 78% 86% 91% 91%
6.5 Years Old 0% 0% 4% 21% 36% 48% 52%
14 Years Old 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
15 Years Old 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

The quality of the original dry beans evaluated in the above experiment was impacted by a variety of different variables over which I had no control, such as: the average growing conditions during the year in which the beans were grown (amount of rainfall, amount of sunshine, and the average daily temperature), the amount and quality of fertilizer used, and the type of crop that was grown in that soil the previous year. I had no control over these variables but they had an impact on the quality of the dry beans that were available for sale in the years that I purchased dry beans. Another variable over which I had no control was how old the dry beans actually were when they were offered for sale at the grocery store.

The above experiment suggests that dry beans will retain a germination rate in excess of 90% during their first two years of storage and they will retain a germination rate of approximately 50% after 6.5 years in storage. However, sometime after 6.5 years and before 14 years the germination rate of dry beans will drop to zero.

This is extremely important and useful information to anyone who is relying on their dry beans to provide healthy nutritious food for their family, and who also intends to use some of their dry beans as seeds to grow a fresh crop of beans.

This also suggests that a prudent person should periodically replace any seeds they have in storage. If you purchased your seeds several years ago, then their germination rate at this time may be extremely low or zero. This is a common mistake some people make when they purchase a "Complete Set of Vegetable Seeds Vacuumed Sealed in a #10 Can" from a supplier. They believe those canned seeds will be good for planting for a much longer period of time than they actually are. Hopefully you will not make this mistake.


Never eat any type of raw bean or ground dry beans (bean flour) that has not been properly prepared and thoroughly cooked.

Sprouting: The Chinese sprout mung beans and then they cook the sprouted beans in a variety of different ways. It is not safe to eat a raw bean that has been sprouted and not cooked. Most bean varieties should never be sprouted for human consumption.

The beans that contain the highest levels of undesirable chemicals are kidney beans, soy beans, and lima beans.

Uncooked or undercooked lima beans can cause red blood cells to cluster together. However, properly soaking and cooking dry lima beans will neutralize the compound that causes this problem.

Kidney beans and soy beans are the most difficult beans for the human body to digest. You should never sprout kidney beans.

All dry beans contain some chemicals that are harmful to the human body. One of these toxins is called "phytohaemagglutinin" or PHA. Kidney beans contain an estimated 10 to 20 times more of this toxin than other types of beans.

If you eat raw or undercooked kidney beans then in three hours (or less) you may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Your natural immune system will usually eliminate this toxin from your body through vomiting and diarrhea, and you will recover in approximately 3 or 4 hours after the symptoms first appeared. However, you should seek assistance from a licensed medical professional whenever you have symptoms such as these.

The undesirable chemicals in dry beans can be easily leached out of the beans by soaking the beans in water, discarding the soak water, and then thoroughly cooking the beans in fresh water until they are well done. Cooking will neutralize any trace amounts of undesirable chemicals that may still be in the beans after soaking.

Caution: If you grow your own beans in a home garden then you should resist the temptation to eat a few of your raw beans as you harvest them. The few raw beans you eat could make you sick.

Dry Bean Varieties Not Recommended for Long-Term Food Storage: Dry kidney beans, dry lima beans, and dry soy beans are not recommended for long-term food storage. In addition, extra care should be used when preparing these beans for human consumption. If you already have some dry kidney beans, dry lima beans, or dry soy beans as part of your long-term storage foods then you may wish to gradually prepare, cook, and eat these beans in a safe manner and rotate them out of your long-term storage foods. As you gradually consume these beans then you can replace them with dry pinto beans because dry pinto beans are better for long-term storage.

Dry Beans Available for Sale at a Grocery Store
Double or Triple Cleaned

This information might be printed on a bag of beans. It refers to how often the beans were processed through the automated equipment that removes foreign particles from the beans, such as small sticks or small rocks. In my opinion double cleaning is adequate. Triple cleaning is fine but I suspect it is done primarily for advertising and marketing purposes because I cannot tell any difference between double cleaned and triple cleaned dry beans. I have also noticed that some of the different brands of dry beans no longer print the number of times the beans were cleaned on the plastic bag. This is probably the result of trying to reduce the total cost of processing the dry beans in order to keep the selling price of the dry beans as low as possible.

How to Grow Beans in a Home Garden

Soak the dry beans for one hour in lukewarm water. Remove the beans from the water and place the beans inside a damp cloth towel (or between two damp paper towels). Then place them in a warm dark spot. Keep the towel moist while the beans are germinating. Sometime between 4 to 7 days the beans will sprout if they are capable of sprouting. Plant the sprouted beans 1 inch deep about 6 inches apart in warm soil (at least 60 F or 16 C). Plant different bean varieties at least 150 feet apart.

One advantage of pinto beans is that it takes pinto beans somewhere between 60 to 90 days to grow from planting to maturity depending on your soil, rainfall, and daily temperatures. Most other bean varieties require between 85 to 115 days to grow from planting to maturity.

How to Dry Freshly Harvested Beans

Most beans, such as pinto beans and navy beans, do not require any special effort to dry them for future consumption. Pick the bean pod when the beans are fully mature. Maturity normally occurs when the exterior bean pod has turned brown but the pod has not yet split open. Pick the entire bean pod and leave the beans inside their pods for about two weeks at normal room temperatures to give the beans a chance to continue to harden and to protect them from a multitude of insects. Then remove the beans and discard the pods. The beans will continue to dry at normal room temperatures. If you can't dent a bean when you bite down on it then it is dry enough for long-term storage.

How to Vacuum Seal Dry Beans

If you purchase dry beans from a grocery store then you may leave them inside the plastic bags in which they were purchased. Place the bag of beans inside a vacuum bag of a slightly larger size. Punch three or four small holes or slits along the side of the inner plastic bag that will be facing the opening in the vacuum bag so that all the air can be sucked out of the plastic bag that contains the beans.

If you have freshly grown dry beans then you may simply fill a vacuum storage bag to within 2 or 3 inches of the top of the vacuum bag so the bag can still be properly sealed.

The quantity of dry beans that you seal in a single vacuum bag should be no more than what you believe your family will eat during one month. This will allow you to open and consume your dry beans gradually over a long period of time and you will not need to worry about insects or humidity destroying your dry beans before your family can eat them all.

On the outside of the vacuum bag you should use a permanent ink marker to write the name of the bean variety and the date the beans were vacuum sealed.

Vacuum Sealer Recommendation

In my opinion, the "Ziploc" brand Vacuum Sealer is currently the best value on the market at a cost of about $50. You press down on both sides of the vacuum sealer to lock it into position. After sealing a bag, you press in on the two release buttons on each side of the sealer to release the bag. This is a simple, basic Vacuum Sealer but it is the best one I have owned over the years. In the past I have owned the "Seal-a-Meal" brand and the "Food Saver" brand Vacuum Sealers and they both worked extremely well until they gradually wore out. My "Ziploc" Vacuum Sealer has not worn out yet and I am still very pleased with its performance. I also strongly recommend the "Ziploc" Vacuum Seal bags over the other brands that are currently available.

How to Store Vacuum Sealed Dry Beans

Vacuum sealed dry beans may be stored inside plastic totes, or plastic buckets, or any other suitable storage container that has a lid and that will keep light, insects, and rodents out of the container. The containers need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark area.

How to Cook Dry Beans

Cook Pot Selection

If you have more than one cook pot then you should select a pot, or a sauce pan, that has the following three characteristics:
  1. It should have a non-stick coating.
  2. It should have a lid or cover.
  3. It should be of the optimum size for cooking the quantity of beans you wish to prepare.
    • Best Size: When you add the dry beans and the water to the pot then the pot should be approximately one-half full, more or less.
    • Too Small: If you use a smaller pot then the water will be closer to the top of the pot and the pot may boil over onto the stove as the beans are cooking. This not only creates a mess on your stove top but you also lose some of the nutrients that were cooked out of the beans into the water.
    • Too Big: If you use a larger pot then the water will be spread out over a wider area near the bottom of the pot. This will result in more of the water being lost to evaporation as the beans cook because the surface area of the water is bigger than it needs to be. This means you will need to add water more often and in larger quantities. It also increases the chance that all of the water in the pot will evaporate and then the beans will burn on the bottom of the pot.

Processing and Cooking Instructions for Dry Beans

Dry beans will expand between 2 to 3 times when cooked depending on the type of bean. Please keep this in mind when planning your meals.

After the beans are cooked, do not discard the water the beans were cooked in. That water contains healthy nutrients that were cooked out of the beans. The bean water may be consumed as soup, or the bean water may be consumed as you eat the beans.

1. Sorting and Rinsing:

Look through your dry beans and remove any small foreign particles such as tiny sticks, stones, or other debris. Rinse the dry beans thoroughly and discard the rinse water.

2. Soaking or Rehydrating:

Do not soak lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, or mung beans.

Overnight Soak Method (Recommended): For each cup of dry beans, add two or three cups of pure water. If fresh pure water is easily available then use three cups of water per cup of dry beans. However, if fresh water is not readily available then you may use two cups of water per cup of dry beans. The advantage of the extra water is that the extra water can more easily and quickly absorb the undesirable chemicals from the beans.

Soak the beans overnight (between 8 to 14 hours) in a cool place. Drain the beans and discard the soak water because the soak water will contain the undesirable chemicals that have been leeched out of the beans. The soak water will also contain a small quantity of healthy nutrients but those nutrients will be mixed in with the undesirable chemicals and therefore the soak water should be discarded for health and safety reasons.

Quick Soak Method (for educational purposes only): Cover the beans with either two or three times as much pure water as the beans and bring the water to a boil. Boil for two minutes and then remove the pot from the heat, cover the pot, and allow the beans to soak for between 1 to 4 hours as the water gradually cools down. Drain the beans, discard the water, add fresh water, and cook. (Caution: The short boiling time may activate bacteria spores that may present in the beans. If this happens then allowing the beans to soak in a warm water solution would accelerate the growth of the bacteria. Therefore I do not recommend the quick soak method.)

Special Soaking Instructions for Kidney Beans: Change the soaking water at least three times while the kidney beans are soaking.

3. Cooking:

If beans are not thoroughly cooked then they are more difficult to chew and digest, and they will generate more gas during the digestive process.

Amount of Water to Add: Measure your dry beans in a measuring cup. Pour the dry beans into your cook pot. Then add four times as much pure water as dry beans. (Note: Some cooks prefer to only add two or three times the water. But I simmer the beans over very, very low heat for a long period of time and therefore I require more water than some cooks.)

Toxin Neutralization: In order to neutralize any minor amounts of toxins that may still be present in the beans after soaking, bring the beans in the cook pot to a boil and boil the beans for ten minutes, without any cover on the pot. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and put a cover on the pot.

Optional Seasonings During Cooking: Thinly sliced strips of meat (beef or ham or pork or bacon), or chopped onions, or chopped celery may be added while the beans are simmering. This will allow the beans to fully absorb these flavors while they are cooking.

Do not add salt or acids (tomatoes, catsup, wine, or vinegar) to the beans while they are cooking. These items slow down the cooking and softening process. You may add salt and acids (tomatoes or catsup) after the beans are fully cooked.

Slow Cooking (recommended): After reducing the heat to a very, very low simmer, put a lid or cover on the cook pot. At least once per hour stir the beans while they are cooking. The slower the beans are cooked, the easier it is to digest them. Slowly simmer the beans over very low heat for between 3 to 8 hours. Under normal cooking conditions the beans will be done in 4 hours or less. If you cook the beans longer than 4 hours then the beans become very soft and they will require almost no chewing and they will be very easy for most people to digest.

Fast Cooking (not recommended): The minimum cooking time for beans over medium low heat is 60 to 90 minutes. Soybeans should be cooked for three hours.

How to Add More Water: To prevent scorching you will probably need to add water to the beans as they cook because some of the water will be absorbed into the beans and some of the water will evaporate due to the heat. Do not add cool water or cold water to the beans while they are cooking because the cool water shock will toughen the beans and if this happens then they will require a longer cooking time and the beans will be a little harder to digest. Instead heat the extra water in a separate cook pot and then pour the hot water into the bean pot.

Maximum Cooking Temperature: If possible, do not cook beans at a temperature higher than 167 degrees Fahrenheit (or 75 C).

Total Cooking Time: Older dry beans will require a longer cooking time than freshly harvested dry beans. Therefore you should test your beans periodically as you cook them. The first test should be done after 90 minutes of slow simmering. Then continue to test the beans every thirty minutes until they are cooked to your satisfaction.

Cooked Bean Test: When a bean is soft and it can be easily mashed with a fork using just a little pressure, and the bean can be easily pierced with the prongs of a fork using just a little pressure, then the bean is done. However, some people prefer for their beans to be a little firmer than this, and some recipes require the beans to be a little firmer than this. Therefore you will need to decide when the beans are done based on your requirements.

Optional Seasonings After Cooking: After the beans are fully cooked then you may add salt, tomatoes, wine, vinegar, or any other acidic ingredient. Then simmer the beans over very low heat for a short period of time to give the beans a chance to absorb the new flavors.

My Favorite Bean Varieties

Black beans (or turtle beans) are good in any Mexican recipe, or with white rice and diced raw onions.

Great northern beans are white beans and they are good in baked recipes.

Navy beans are white beans and they are good as baked beans or in soups. They are also excellent when ground into bean flour. Fresh dry navy beans, or slightly aged dry navy beans, or older dry navy beans may all be used to make bean flour.

Pinto beans are pink beans with brown spots. Pinto beans are good in any Mexican recipe, or as refried beans, or in chili.

How to Salvage Old Beans

Bean Flour: Grind older beans into bean flour. Navy beans make the best bean flour.

Freezing: Soak and then cook old beans thoroughly. Wait for the beans to cool down to room temperature. Then freeze the beans. Freezing will rupture the exterior of the bean and this will make the beans tastier and easier to digest when you reheat them for eating.

Pressure Cooking: Pressure cook the beans following the directions that came with your pressure cooker.

How to Make Bean Flour

Bean flour may be substituted for 1/4 of the wheat flour required in a recipe.

Never grind dry beans and then simply mix them with hot water to make refried beans. All bean flour must be cooked or baked at a temperature that exceeds 212 F (or 100 C) until all of the bean flour has reached this temperature (or higher) for a minimum of ten minutes.

Some wheat grinders will process dry beans and some wheat grinders will not process dry beans. The instructions that came with your wheat grinder will usually tell you what types of grains and seeds can be ground without damaging the grinder. The instructions will also usually tell you what you should not grind in the grinder.

Almost any dry bean can be ground into bean flour. However, most people prefer to grind navy beans or great northern beans into flour because these beans are white beans and they blend well with hard white wheat flour without being noticeably visible.

Place the beans in the hopper and process them the same way you would wheat berries. If you wish to use them in a bread recipe then you should set the grinding adjustment to a fine grind. However, if you wish to use them as a thickener in a soup or stew then set the grinding adjustment to a course grind.

Hand Crank Grain Grinders

For a potential future hard times event I suggest you have a manual hand crank grain grinder that can process wheat berries, dry corn, and dry beans.

Information about bean grinders and grain grinders is on my website here.

A Few Simple Bean Recipes

Black Beans, White Rice, and Diced Raw Onions: Cook the beans and rice separately. Serve the cooked black beans in one bowl, the cooked white rice in a second bowl, and the diced raw onions in a third bowl. Then let each person transfer as much as they want from each bowl onto their plate. Some people prefer to eat these three items separately, but at the same meal. Other people prefer to mix these three items together on their plate and then eat them all at the same time.

Bean Casserole: 1 cup cooked navy beans, 1 cup cooked corn, 1 cup finely diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon grated onion, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix everything together and pour into a greased casserole baking pot. Sprinkle browned bread crumbs over the top of the mixture and cover the pot. Bake covered in a preheated 350 F (or 177 C) oven for 45 minutes.

Baked Beans: 2 cups cooked pinto beans, 1/4 cup diced onion, 3 tablespoons catsup, 2 tablespoons molasses (or 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon honey), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup boiling water (bean water or fresh water), 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (the sauce is optional), and 6 slices of bacon. Cut each bacon slice into four pieces. Fry the bacon pieces in a skillet until they are approximately half done (not brown or crisp). Mix everything together except the bacon. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole baking pot. Place the half cooked bacon pieces evenly over the top of the mixture. Cover the pot. Bake covered in a preheated 250 F (or 121 C) oven for 6 hours.

Dutch Oven Campfire Beans: Dig a hole in the ground that is 6 inches deeper and 2 inches wider than your Dutch Oven. Build a fire in the bottom of the hole and build another fire beside the hole and wait for the two fires to burn down into red hot coals. Place the ingredients for Baked Beans (above recipe) into a Dutch Oven and put the lid onto the Dutch Oven. When the red hot coals in the bottom of the hole are about 2 inches deep then place the Dutch Oven on top of the coals. Push the red hot coals from the fire that is beside the hole into the hole around the outside of the Dutch Oven and onto the top of the Dutch Oven. Transfer the original dirt that you removed from the hole onto the top of the hot coals above the Dutch Oven so the entire Dutch Oven is covered with at least 3 or 4 inches of dirt. Wait six hours. Carefully remove the dirt and any coals that may still be hot, and then carefully lift the Dutch Oven out of the hole by its handle.

Refried Beans: Cook dry pinto beans over very low heat for 6 hours. The beans will be so soft and tender that they can be easily mashed with a serving spoon to create refried beans. Or if you have leftover beans from a previous meal then mash them with a fork or spoon and then reheat them to yield refried beans.

Taco Stew: 1 pound ground beef, 1 chopped onion, 6 diced Roma tomatoes, 6 ounces cooked pinto beans, 6 ounces cooked black beans, 6 ounces cooked corn, 1 package taco seasoning (mix the taco seasoning in some bean water or in some fresh water). Slowly cook the meat and the onion in a skillet over low heat. When the meat is completely done then add the other ingredients and continue to simmer over low heat until the mixture is at a suitable serving temperature. This thick taco stew may be eaten as a stew by itself, or it may be eaten with grated cheese and tortilla chips.

Nutritional Data for One Cup of Cooked Lentils or Beans

The nutritional content of beans will vary based on a number of different factors, such as the type of soil in which the beans are grown, the amount and type of fertilizer used, the amount of rain during the growing season, the amount of sunshine during the growing season, and the daily high temperatures during the growing season. Therefore the beans you grow or purchase will probably not contain the exact nutrition shown in the following table. But most beans should be reasonably close to the following values.

Nutrition per One Cup of Cooked Lentils or Cooked Beans

Lentils Black Kidney Navy Northern Pinto
Calories 230 227 218 255 209 245
Carbohydrate 13% 14% 13% 16% 12% 15%
Fiber 69% 60% 66% 76% 50% 62%
Protein 35% 30% 34% 30% 29% 31%
Fat 1% 1% 0% 2% 1% 2%
Cholesterol 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
A 15.8 IU 10.3 IU 5.3 IU 0.0 IU 1.8 IU 0.0 IU
B6 18% 6% 0% 13% 10% 20%
B12 - - - - - -
C 5% - 4% 3% 4% 2%
D - - - - - -
E 1% - - - - 8%
K 4% - - 1% - 7%
Betaine - - - 0.2 mg - -
Choline 64.7 mg - - 61.3 mg - -
Folate 90% 64% 33% 64% 45% 74%
Niacin 10% 4% 5% 8% 6% 3%
Pantothenic Acid 13% 4% 4% 5% 5% 4%
Riboflavin 9% 6% 7% 7% 6% 6%
Thiamin 22% 26% 11% 29% 19% 22%
Calcium 4% 5% 8% 13% 12% 8%
Copper 25% 18% 23% 19% 22% 19%
Iron 37% 20% 27% 24% 21% 20%
Magnesium 18% 30% 19% 24% 22% 21%
Manganese 49% 36% 23% 48% 46% 30%
Phosphorus 30% 24% 25% 26% 29% 25%
Potassium 21% 17% 19% 20% 20% 21%
Selenium 6% 3% 3% 8% 10% 15%
Sodium 4.0 mg 1.7 mg - - - 1.7 mg
Zinc 17% 13% 11% 12% 10% 11%

The above nutritional data is from the following web site:

Summary and Conclusion

If the members of your family can eat beans, then dry beans should be one of your long-term storage foods in order to provide the balanced nutrition your family will need. Other important long-term storage foods include wheat berries, yellow dent corn, and white rice. White rice can be purchased at a grocery store near the dry beans section and you can vacuum seal white rice the same way you vacuum seal dry beans. Wheat berries and yellow dent corn will usually need to be purchased in #10 cans or in food pails. Hard white wheat berries are preferred in bread recipes because their flavor is very, very similar to the type of wheat flour your family has probably been eating for many years.

When beans are eaten at the same time as wheat, corn, or rice then they digest inside the stomach and combine into a balanced high quality protein and some essential amino acids that can be used by the human body to maintain long-term good health.

Pinto Beans Dry pinto beans gain most of their rehydrated weight and size during the overnight soak in clean water. The majority of the undesirable and unhealthy chemicals in the beans will also be leeched out of the beans during this soaking period. Therefore the overnight soak is an important step and it should be allowed to happen at its normal pace without trying to speed up the process (quick soaking). The soak water should be discarded because it contains undesirable chemicals in addition to a little of the nutrition that has been leeched out of the beans.

If a person eats approximately two pounds of cooked beans per week, which is approximately 1,400 calories per week from beans, then approximately 50 pounds of dry beans will last one person one year.

The storage environment and the storage method both have a significant impact on the edible shelf life of food, including dry beans.
  1. Storage Environment: A reasonable long-term storage environment for food is one where the temperature remains somewhere between 60 to 75 F (or 15.5 to 24 C), and the area is dry and dark, and the area is free of rodents.

  2. Storage Method: Dry beans should be sealed inside a container where the air has been replaced with nitrogen or with carbon dioxide. Or dry beans may be vacuum sealed inside a plastic container or inside a vacuum storage bag, and then placed inside a container that has a top or lid. The dry beans should then be stored in an appropriate long-term food storage environment.
Vacuum Sealing: Vacuum sealing dry beans will significantly extend their edible shelf life. However, the impact of vacuum sealing on the germination percentage of dry beans has not yet been determined. Therefore I recommend the following simple strategy.
  1. Beans for Eating: Vacuum seal all the dry beans you intend to eat. If you vacuum seal recently purchased dry beans and store them inside a container with a lid and put the container in a cool, dry, dark area, then the dry beans should remain fit for human consumption for at least 20 years (or more).

  2. Beans for Seed: Store one or two pounds of dry beans in a heavy-duty zipper freezer bag in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not vacuum seal these beans. You can use these beans as seed to produce a new crop of beans in your garden. You should consider replacing this small quantity of dry beans with fresh dry beans at least once every five years in order to ensure that your dry beans will germinate when you need them. Depending on the size of the garden area that you allocate to beans, one or two pounds of dry beans will normally be adequate as seed for the average family of three or four people.

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