Ontario Beans – So Many to Choose From!
Beans go by a number of different general names such as Legumes, dry bean, common bean, and ‘a pulse’. For convenience sake beans are divided into two broad subdivisions – coloured beans and white beans. Almost every region of the world that grows beans has different specific local names, but most of these dry edible beans are members of the scientific classification Phaseolus vulgaris.
Dry edible beans store easily and maintain their nutritional properties well. It is estimated that there are well over 400 different types or varieties of edible beans grown throughout the world. Most beans are consumed in local diets and don’t find their way onto our western grocery shelves. Size, shape, colour, texture and slight variations in taste add variety to a serving of starch or carbohydrate.
Canada is fortunate in that it grows beans in excess of its needs and exports its surpluses around the world. In fact, 80-90% of the beans grown in Ontario are exported.
There are approximately 1200 farmers growing eight types of beans in Ontario. These types are listed below:
White or pea beans. Also known as navy beans, white beans are the most popular edible bean crop grown in Ontario and are often used in soups, salads and baked bean dishes. Most of these are exported to the United Kingdom for baked beans. The rest are sold domestically. White beans have been grown in Ontario since the early 1900’s.
Black turtle beans. Also known as black beans or pretos, these have a nut-like flavour and are very popular in Caribbean, Mexican and South American cuisine. Ontario black beans mainly head to Mexico.
Dark red kidney beans. Great in soups, casseroles, chili and salads. They are a popular choice among Ontario and Quebec farmers.
Light red kidney beans. These are kidney-shaped and maroon in colour. Because of their texture, these beans are great in salads, casseroles and Mexican-style recipes.
White kidney beans. Also known as cannellini or alubia beans, they are white or cream coloured. When puréed, they are similar to creamy mashed potatoes and make a perfect low-fat base for dips and spreads.
Cranberry beans. Known as romano or speckled sugar, cranberry beans are very popular in Italian cuisine, and have the highest folate count of all beans. They are also great beans to use in chili.
Adzuki beans. The adzuki bean has been grown and used for many centuries in Asian countries and was introduced to Japan from China about 1,000 years ago. Its principal use is as a confectionery item.
Otebo beans. Otebo beans are a specialty class of bean that is marketed to Japan for use in confectionary paste. Otebos are another great bean to use in chili.
Other bean types grown in Canada (but not regularly in Ontario) include Great Northern Beans, Pinto Beans, Small Red Beans and Yellow Beans.