Supermarkets in the Time of Coronavirus

On one of my widely-spaced forays to the supermarket since the coronavirus hammer came down, I was happy (and somewhat surprised) to see that people had made good decisions! They had stripped the shelves, or at least made major inroads, in some of my favorite sections of the supermarket, including the dried beans section. Who knew we had such survival skills?

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The New York Times agrees!

On 3/22/20, the Times reported that “amid all the panic shopping, the growing demand for beans has stood out as an especially potent symbol of the anxious and uncertain times. At supermarkets, shoppers are stocking up on canned beans from familiar brands like Goya Foods, as well as thick bags of dry beans that usually lie largely untouched on store shelves.”

Food for any crisis

Dried beans are the ultimate food for a crisis. They store indefinitely, virtually without any risk of being infested or losing nutritional quality, in a sealed or resealed bag or in a glass jar (where they can be quite beautiful on your kitchen counter or pantry shelf). All you need is water to soak them and a source of heat to cook them, to turn them into food.

What other kind of crisis is there?

Hmm. There are other crises brewing that have gone to the back burner now that we’re dealing with an epidemic. Beans help to deal with the planetary climate crisis because, like all plant foods, they are low on the food chain and use way fewer resources to grow than animal foods, and generate a fraction of the waste, too.

Beans help deal with our crisis of chronic disease and soaring medical expenditures, too, because they keep you so healthy.

The experts weigh in

Brenda Davis, RD, in Becoming Vegan (2014), p. 373 says “Eat at least three ½ cup servings of legumes per day. (New consumers should begin with smaller servings to allow the gut bacteria to adjust to the increased fiber intake.)” Michael Greger, MD (of nutritionfacts.org fame) in How Not To Die (2015), pp. 294-85 says one study shows that ½ cup a day of pinto beans for 2 months can reduce your cholesterol by 19 points; another study shows that each increment of 2 tbsp a day in bean consumption was associated with an 8% reduction in risk of premature death.

Nutritional benefits—just a few of many

 What are beans full of? Complex carbs with loads of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, to regulate your cholesterol, clean your gut, and foster a healthy microbiome. Just the right array of macronutrients to sustain a human, including the right amount of protein. Micronutrients galore, including vitamins and minerals like folate, iron, potassium and magnesium.

Not the stars of the show

Beans often get neglected.

When people start a plant-based diet, sometimes the hardest challenge is to get used to eating beans. Everyone knows they should eat lots of daily servings of fruits and vegetables (5! 7! 9!). And everyone loves grains for comfort food (and it’s not too hard to switch the emphasis to whole grains). But sometimes the only bean dishes people are familiar with are baked beans and hummus. Those dishes can be great, but they are just the beginning!

Okay, but how do I cook beans?

Dried beans

To cook beans from scratch:* Pour the beans into a pot and sort through to remove stones and shriveled beans. Cover with water 2-3 X the volume of the beans. Soak overnight to use them the next day, or at least 3-4 hours before you want to start cooking them. To cook soaked beans: pour off any remaining water; add fresh water 2X the volume of the soaked beans. Cook 45 min. to 1½ hrs, depending on the type of bean (check after 45 min. to see if done, and check frequently to see if you need to add water). Lentils don’t need to be soaked beforehand and cook in 45 min., or less for red lentils. VERY IMPORTANT: When cooking beans from scratch, do not add salt or anything acidic (such as tomatoes, citrus juice, or vinegar) to the beans until they are cooked to desired tenderness.

Here’s a recipe that uses dried beans that do not need to be soaked before you cook with them. When I last shopped, green split peas were the only dried beans left on the shelf.

SPLIT PEA OR LENTIL SOUP*

1 pkg. green or yellow split peas, or lentils
10 c water or vegetable broth, or more as needed
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 or 2 stalks celery, sliced
1 or 2 carrots, sliced
1 t cumin or curry powder
1 t dried basil and/or other herbs
½ t salt
Dash of Liquid Smoke (optional)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced (optional)

Pour split peas or lentils into a large pot and sort through for stones. Add water, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, herbs and spices. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 30 min. Add potatoes about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time.

This is a wonderful hot lunch or dinner that is very economical. Serve with green salad and bread.

Canned beans are good too!

Best to rinse and drain them before using. Some people save the bean liquid and use it as an egg substitute (aquafaba) but that’s a whole other post!

Enjoy, and until next time!  —Carol Barnett

*The dried beans instruction and soup recipe are taken from the book for the plant-based nutrition course, which will be given again on six Thursdays starting on September 24th. Go to roclifemed.comfor info and to register.

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