Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

bean a term loosely applied to any legume whose seeds or pods are eaten, and which is not classed separately as a pea or lentil.

The nutritional and agricultural advantages of beans and other legumes are discussed under legumes. See also dal; gram; pulse; and (for what is perhaps the single most famous bean dish) ful medames.

Beans have a good reputation. The English expression ‘full of beans’ means ‘in an energetic, cheerful mood’. There is a corresponding Portuguese phrase: cheio de feijão.

Most beans familiar in the West were formerly classified in the genus Phaseolus, which is named on account of the shape of the pods it bears, to suggest a swift sailing boat; but many of these species have now been assigned to the genus Vigna.