is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
(English: leguminous, legumes), used for food or feed.
Bean originally meant the seed of the fava bean, but was later broadened
to include members of the genus Phaseolus such as the common bean
or haricot and the runner bean and the related
genus Vigna. The term is now applied
in a general way to many other related plants such as soybeans, peas, lentils, vetches and lupins. It can be used as a near
synonym of pulse, that is an edible
some restrict pulse to just varieties used as dry seeds.
English usage beans sometimes also refer to seeds or other organs of non leguminosae
for example coffee beans, castor beans
and cocoa beans (which
resemble bean seeds), and vanilla beans (which resemble
crops harvested green for food like snap beans, green peas etc. are classified
as vegetable crops. The term "pulses" is usually reserved
for those leguminous crops which are harvested for their dry grain. Pulses exclude
those crops mainly used for oil extraction like soybean and peanut) or those used exclusively
for sowing purposes (clover and alfalfa).
economic importance are the beans of the following genera of leguminosae
genus Phaseolus contains 55 species,
5 of which have been domesticated. All Phaseolus species originate in
Meso America and have been cultivated for thousands of years by pre-Columbian civilizations.
Phaseolus species are cultivated worldwide in both tropical, semi tropical
and temperate climates.
vulgaris exists in many forms and colours. They are grown as dry beans or
as green beans. There are bushy types, climbing types, green, yellow or speckled
pods, black, green, red, and speckled seeds. This enormous variety in forms and
colours of the different plant parts has given rise to a great variation in names.
vulgaris grown for dried bean production are known as pinto, kidney, navy, black turtle
P. vulgaris grown for fresh consumption is known as snap, french,
green, wax (yellow pods), pole or runner (climbing) beans.
coccineus or Runner bean
coccineus is normally a pluriannual plant with stems that can reach several metres.
The main uses are the green pods or the white dried seeds. The seeds are large.
The scarlet runner beans have been grown extensively in Meso America, Europe and
parts of Africa (Ethiopia). P. coccineus has large flowers which are scarlet or
white in colour. Due to its flowers, scarlet runner beans are also grown as ornamental
plants in the USA and Europe. P.coccineus is often grown in association with maize or sorghum whereby the maize or sorghum
acts as support for the semi climbing runner beans.
acutifolius or Tepary bean
acutifolius is a very drought reistant bean which is grown in (semi)desert conditions
from Arizona through Mexico to Costa Rica. The water requirements are low and
the crop will grow in areas where annual rainfall is less than 400 mm.
lunatus or Lima bean
known as butter bean, duffin bean, rangoon bean, burma bean.
P. lunatus is
well adapted to the drier climates.
Vigna includes a number of important food crops grown in tropical and
semi tropical regions.
called horse bean, broad bean, or field bean. This is the original bean of European
traditional uses of beans refer to the fava bean. In ancient Greece and Rome, beans were used
in voting (a white bean meant yes and a black bean meant no)
and as a food for the dead, such as during the annual Lemuria festival.
In some folk legends, such as in Estonia and the common Jack and the Beanstalk
story, magical beans grow tall enough to bring the hero to the clouds. The Grimm Brothers collected
a story in which a bean splits its sides laughing at the failure of others. Dreaming
of a bean is sometimes said to be a sign of impending conflict, though others
said they caused bad dreams. Pliny claimed they acted
as a laxative. European folklore also
claims that planting beans on Good Friday or during the
night-time is good luck.
English usage, bean is used to denote energy and activity, such as the
idiom "full of beans". To "spill the beans" means to give out
are often said to be the "magical fruit". Members of certain religious
sects include beans as a part of their religious ceremonies. They consider them
to have magical aspects unrivaled by any other fruit of its sort.