Spilling the beans on beans

Do you find beans challenging to digest? Many people do, and it’s usually because the beans aren’t adequately prepared. Beans, peas, and lentils need to soak before cooking, and the soaking times vary from about half an hour to about two days. Not only that, but beans generally need two separate rounds of cooking. Have you heard that beans have lectins, and that lectins are evil? The truth is a bit more complicated than that, but the preparation methods described below will remove most of the lectins. A recent study compared no-soak techniques to standard soaking techniques and found that there was no significant difference in digestibility, while the unsoaked cooked beans had far more flavor. The soaking technique examined in the study was far shorter than what I recommend, and this is probably why it didn’t help much with digestion. As for flavor, read on! Once you jazz up your beans with some spices, oil, and seaweed or sea salt, they should be quite flavorful.

Peas, lentils, and mung beans require the least prep. Sort them to make sure there are no pebbles or other undesirable things in your batch and then pour on a bit more than enough water to cover then; while they soak, they absorb some of the water, and your goal is to have more soaking water than the pulses can absorb. After half an hour, you’re ready to strain them and toss the extra water, or give it to some of your plants.

Next, put them into your pot, pour on water, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a tad and let them simmer for about an hour. Stick in a fork and taste. If you approve of the texture, you’re ready to strain them if broth wasn’t part of your culinary plans, and add whatever other ingredients you choose. You should add coconut oil, ghee, or some other saturated oil to enhance absorption, and / or serve them with avocado. Toss in a bit of local seaweed or sea salt and whatever spices your palate is craving, and voilà! Your beans, peas, or lentils are ready.

Of course, we can improve on this. While your lentils, peas, or mung beans are soaking, you can dice some ginger, garlic, perhaps cayenne, and onions, and put that into your pot to sauté with olive oil and other herbs and spices; I recommend nigella sativa, coriander, cumin, and cardamom. Then, you may add your strained pulses and sauté them with the onions and spices for a minute or two before adding the water. Next, add your salt. If you want, you can include some burdock or dandelion root as well. Part way through cooking, throw in some nettle, either dried or fresh. If available, add other greens as well. At the very end, you can perk up both the nutritional profile and the flavor by adding some rose hip powder.

Adzuki beans are the next easiest beans to prepare. Sort and then soak them for an hour or two before tossing the soaking water, putting the strained beans into a pot with fresh water, and bringing to a boil. Strain, discard the water, replace the beans in the pot, add fresh water, and bring to a boil once again. Turn the heat down a notch and simmer for about an hour or until the beans are coming apart. While it’s cooking, add some seaweed, such as digitata kelp, the North Atlantic equivalent of kombu. Another way to test for readiness is to see whether you can mash the bean between two fingers. Add the saturated fat of your choice and use as desired. I like to mash adzuki beans and combine with garlic and other spices, miso, and honey for a bean paste to spread on crackers or use as a dip for crudité and taco chips. Sometimes we use adzuki as the basis for a soup. If we’re making a soup, I often toss burdock and / or dandelion in to the pot while the beans are simmering. I may sauté onions and vegetables separately and then combine them with the beans and broth, or I may take the lazier but more efficient route of simmering them along with the beans. I often add greens about five minutes before turning off the flame.

Black beans and great northern beans require a bit more preparation. They need to soak for at least five hours and preferably overnight. Strain the beans and discard the soaking water (or give it to your plants. Put the beans into a pot with fresh water and bring to a boil. Boil hard for two or three minutes and then strain the beans once more. Toss out this water, too. (Yes, you could use it for aqua fava… but should you? Let your stomach and guts decide.)

Now, throw the beans back into the pot again and add more water. A lot more, because they’re going to cook for a long time. Bring the water to a boil yet again and turn down to a simmer. Add some digitata kelp or other local seaweed. If you’re making soup or a stew, chop up all the other ingredients while the beans are cooking. I like to include onions, ginger, copious greens, and sometimes hot pepper and / or sweet potatoes or beets. My daughter swears by celery. Many people include tomatoes. Nigella sativa, cumin, and coriander are lovely additions, as are garlic and paprika. You can add them all to the pot directly, sauté them all separately before adding, or sauté the vegetables and add the herbs directly. You’ll probably still want at least a little sea salt, and you’ll certainly want to add some saturated fat; I usually add coconut oil. I like to incorporate some nutritional medicinal herbs as well, such as nettle and rose hips; they raise the nutritional profile considerably and also enliven the taste. Nettle adds a very subtle saltiness and a less subtle vegetal flavor. In season, you can forage for it and use it fresh, but the rest of the year you can get in in bulk dried, either cut and sifted or powdered. Experiment with the different forms to see what you like best. Rose hips add a hint of sour, similar to vinegar or lemon juice; both nettle and rose hips brighten the overall flavor of the soup or stew. I prefer my rose hips powdered. Sometimes I add some linden leaves, often powdered, for a slightly creamier or gumbo texture combined with a calming influence, strengthening of the heart and the nervous system, aid for the throat, and a boost for the immune system. Astragalus powder thickens the broth a tad, perks up your immune system, and helps to protect you and your dinner guests from Lyme. While you’re adding all of your yummy herbs and veggies, keep simmering the beans. By the end, they should start to disintegrate. When the beans have all disintegrated, or when they’ve passed the finger mushing test, they’re ready. Usually they need to cook for about two hours. After that, you may want to add a garnish, such as cilantro, unless you’re in the “cilantro tastes like soap” club, in which case try lovage.

Pintos need to soak for longer. Ten hours would be the absolute minimum, but really, twenty four would be optimal. In the summer, you may need to change the water in the middle of the soak. Once the soaking is complete, proceed as for black and great northern beans, changing the water after soaking and again shortly after it reaches a boil. (If you let the first boil continue too long, the broth will be significantly less flavorful.)

Kidney beans and garbanzos require still more extensive preparation. They need to soak for 48 hours! In the summer, that means changing the water a few times before you’re done. I usually change it in the morning and evening. If it’s really hot, keep it in the refrigerator while soaking, but still change the water a couple of times. For garbanzos, it’s relatively easy to remove the hulls as part of your soaking procedure, and this will help remove the phytic acid and trypsin inhibitor activity, so it’s a good idea. Once you complete the marathon soaking session, proceed as for black and great northern beans.

Soybeans become most digestible when fermented. While fresh edamame is not a fermented product, tempeh, natto, and miso are all fermented and both tempeh and miso are readily available; you may have to head to a Japanese specialty store to find natto. Tofu is not fermented, but if you marinate it for a couple of hours in fermented tamari, then it will start to ferment. For more fermentation, leave it on the counter in the tamari overnight. Better still, you can make a soft tofu cheese, tofuru, by putting the tofu with tamari, a little wine, and the spices of your choice into a crock pot on the “warm” setting and leaving it overnight; instead of the crockpot, you can put it into your oven with the over turned off while you use your stove, and then leave it overnight. The best way to become comfortable with fermenting is to experiment.

Soy milk is not a fermented product. You can ferment it by leaving it in a warm place for 12-72 hours, preferably with some sea salt. You’ll probably get a soy kefir. Experiment a little; you may like it better with a pinch of vanilla, or perhaps with some ginger, or maybe both.

What about canned beans? Canned beans and inadequate soak times are undoubtedly the source of the bad reputation beans have, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them completely. They shorten the cooking process considerably, but not entirely. The canning substitutes for the soaking and the first boil. Strain the canned beans and proceed according to the instructions here for the second boil. Even if they’re adzuki beans or lentils, strain them and boil some more. Your body will thank you.

What if you’ve been cooking beans merrily for decades with shorter soaking times and only one boil? If you and those you feed feel fine after eating them, that’s fantastic. Eating beans regularly over time trains your system to handle them better than you might otherwise. If anyone among you has been nurturing upset stomachs, however, or has low energy or other symptoms suggesting you’re not getting the full nutritional value from your food, then give these methods a try.

What if you’ve given up on beans entirely? If you’re happy avoiding them, feel free to continue. If, however, you’d like to add them back to your diet, these suggestions should make that possible.

What about lectins? Are they really evil? Not exactly. Beans do indeed have lectins and, depending on the bean, may also have protease inhibitors; both lectins and protease inhibitors interfere with protein digestion and absorption. Beans also have phytic acid, which binds minerals and prevent their absorption. Adequate cooking removes lectins and the inhibitors. Soaking reduces phytic acid and saponins, but not lectins; cooking and straining further reduces saponins.

Lectins are actually not only anti-nutritious but also anti-inflammatory, anticancerous, and immunomodulant. In other words, they help prevent cancer, prevent and lessen inflammation, and promote optimal immune function. Fortunately, while cooking removes them, it does not remove them entirely, so by cooking your beans adequately, you reap the benefits of the lectins while still absorbing the wonderful nutrition that beans, lentils, and peas provide.

Do you want to review a bunch of scientific articles on how soaking and cooking remove the antinutritional factors from pulses so as to allow you to absorb the nutritional oomph of your beans and lentils? Here’s a short bibliography:

 


 

Admassu, Emire Shimelis, and Sudip Kumar Rakshit, “Effect of processing on antinutrients and in vitro protein digestibility of kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) varieties grown in East Africa,” in Food Chemistry, Volume 103, Issue 1, 2007, Pages 161-172, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.08.005

Concepcion, Vidal-Valverde, Juana Frias, Isabel Estrella, Maria J. Gorospe, Raquel Ruiz, and Jim Bacon, “Effect of processing on some antinutritional factors of lentils,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1994 42 (10), 2291-2295, DOI: 10.1021/jf00046a039

D’Adamo, Christopher R, PhD; Sahin, Azize, MD., “Soy Foods and Supplementation: A Review of Commonly Perceived Health Benefits and Risks,” in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Supplement 1; Aliso Viejo Vol. 20, (Winter 2014): 39-51, https://search.proquest.com/openview/6deee9a78c94b33cac0f7bff4566c732/1
Embaby, H.ES. Food Sci Biotechnol (2010) 19: 1055. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10068-010-0148-1

Hassan, Sherif M. (2013). Soybean, Nutrition and Health, Soybean – Bio-Active Compounds, Prof. Hany El-Shemy (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/54545. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/books/soybean-bio-active-compounds/soybean-nutrition-and-health

Messina, Virginia, “Nutritional and health benefits of dried beans,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/437S.short

Montet, D. (Ed.), Ray, R. (Ed.). (2017). Fermented Foods, Part II. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Muramoto, Koji, “Lectins as Bioactive Proteins in Foods and Feeds,” Food Science and Technology Research, Vol. 23 (2017) No.4, p. 487-494, http://doi.org/10.3136/fstr.23.487

Reddy, N.R. and M.D.Pierson, “Reduction in antinutritional and toxic components in plant foods by fermentation, Food Research International, Volume 27, Issue 3, 1994, Pages 281-290, https://doi.org/10.1016/09639969(94)90096-5

Sharma, Alka and Salil Sehgal, “Effect of processing and cooking on the antinutritional factors of faba bean (Vicia faba),” https://doi.org/10.1016/0308-8146(92)90311-O

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Superfoods

Superfood, n. A food or category of foods that provides greater nutritional or medicinal value than commonly associated with food.

Marketers introduced the term “superfood” to help them sell expensive products, and most often they use it to mean:

  • A rare or expensive food that provides greater nutritional or therapeutic value than normally associated with food.

Foods of this description may benefit their sellers more than they do their consumers. Many people resent this, with good reason, and some therefore assume that there are no superfoods. I prefer to think of a superfood as:

  • An affordable or readily forageable food that provides greater nutritional or medicinal benefit than is commonly associated with food.

Examples of affordable or readily forageable foods that pack an extra nutritional or medicinal punch include nettle, red clover, dandelion, burdock root, garlic, ginger, seaweed (particularly whatever kinds grow near you), mushrooms, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut.

If you have access to a community garden plot or if you have a yard suitable for growing vegetables, then we may add any vegetable that is easy to grow and has particularly strong nutritional and / or medicinal value to our list. Brussel sprouts, kale, okra, raspberries, and beets come to mind. If you can easily raise free-range poultry on your land, their eggs would also qualify as a superfood. If you are able to raise bees, so would your very own, very local honey. If you can raise goats or sheep, raw, fermented goat or sheep milk products would apply as well, if they agree with with you. If you raise free-range animals for meat and can deal with eating their organs, these, too, would qualify as superfoods.

However beneficial a food may be, if it doesn’t agree with you, it’s not a superfood for you. We may generalize about the nutritional and medicinal perks of our food, but there are always people for whom the food that keeps us growing will be unsafe, as well as others for whom it will be unacceptable. A good diet should include a daily dollop of respect for different needs, understandings, and tastes.

 

10 Reasons

Wild Herb Week is always one of the highlights of our summer. There are many reasons why you should join us, but I’ll limit myself to 10 for now. image-4

  1. It’s fun.
  2. You’ll get to hang out with great people of all ages and make new friends.
  3. You’ll go home with a substantial set of herbal products to start of your winter herbal medicine cabinet.*
  4. You’ll learn to make different kinds of herbal products.
  5. You’ll get to eat, and learn to make, new and yummy dishes from wild edible plants.
  6. You’ll learn to recognize many wild plants, and learn how to use them. Not only that, but you’ll remember them, because we’ll do plenty of review & we’ll use them.
  7. You’ll get to drink delicious herbal beverages every day, and you’ll learn to make them.
  8. You’ll go home with a beautiful new basket, made by you!
  9. You’ll learn more about how to take care of yourself and your family using safe methods.
  10. You’ll get to learn with your whole family.
  11. There are always some extra things that we learn, and you’ll have some say in what they’ll be: mushroom safety and identification, fermentation 101, and qigong may be among them.

Oops! I couldn’t quite keep it to 10.

 

Register today!!!

*For example, participants in our recent Summer Wild Herb days went home with at least 8 ounces of herbal tincture. It’s not unusual for participants in Wild Herb Week to go home with 16 or more ounces of herbal tincture, plus herbal salve or oil, herbal shampoo, herbal lozenges, delicious herbal “goo balls,” and other goodies. It’s a bit different every time; we make make things that aren’t on this list and not make some of what’s here. It all depends on the plants, the weather, and the people.

For more information, click here!

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Summer Wild Herb Days

I do several programs on wild edible and medicinal plants every summer. This summer, there will be two Summer Wild Herb Days, one on Sunday, July 16, from 1:00-5:00, and one on Wednesday, July 26, from 12:30-4:30. We’ll enjoy a plant walk each time and discuss the uses of the plants we meet as we walk while deciding which to prepare. We’ll make two separate preparations, one a tincture that you’ll get to take home, and the other something to share on the spot; this may be a wild salad, for example, or a pesto. We may also make an herbal oil that we’ll turn into a salve during Wild Herb Week. And guess what? If you come to a Summer Wild Herb Day and sign up for Wild Herb Week on the spot, you get a 5% discount on Wild Herb Week.

Online registration for Wild Herb Week should follow soon… Stay posted.
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Recent stories

Image 2I see people with a wide variety of conditions. Some of the issues I’ve been privileged to help people with lately include:

  • tinnitus; in the first session, I was able to reduce the sound substantially. In the second, we reduced it again but also focused more on what would help the improvement hold.
  • limited mobility in the knee; again, we made some progress in the first session, but far more in the next, where we did a number of sotai exercises and a little qigong in addition to a shiatsu session and reviewing herbs.
  • aching muscles and joints; we are making considerable progress using a combination of herbs and shiatsu.
  • digestive issues; we’re using a combination of herbs, dietary strategies, and shiatsu to help the digestive organs work more effectively.
  • recovery from concussions; I’ve been privileged to work with a few people on their journeys of recovery and help them get relief from headaches, eye pain, and dizziness and learn what herbs to use when these come back. I also developed a kind of linguistic therapy to help with memory problems.

Do you have a health issue that you’d like to discuss?

Use this form to get in touch:

To sign up for our mailing list, click here.

  

Join us for our upcoming Herbal Spa Day

You know you need a day of full attention to you and your needs, and you know how much easier it is to give that to yourself in the company and with the encouragement of others.

Our herbal spa day will include herbal footbaths and facials. As usual (unless the weather prevents us), we’ll start with a wild plant walk, and then we’ll make an enjoy a wonderful herbal infusion. We’ll also make a special, multi-use face toner that you’ll get to take imagehome. You’ll also learn a short acupressure routine. And you’ll get to take your herbal footbath home with you; you can keep using it all week.

Please bring two or three quart-sized jars or one quart-sized and one half-gallon-sized jar, one large steel or enamel vessel that your feet can fit in, one smaller steel mixing bowl or pot, a washcloth, and a towel or two with you. More details will follow registration, including guidance for those coming in household or family groups on which vessels you can share and which not.

Advance registration required. We need to hear from you right away, because we’re busy planning and preparing. We want to be sure to take your needs into account.

There’s more information, as well as more lovely photographs, here.

Use the form below to request a registration form.

 

 

Lessons from Tigers and Bears: Activism Requires Self-Care

In times that necessitate activism, we must take extra steps to care well for ourselves. The more stress we face, and the more external our focus, the more energy we need to put into our self-care to maintain balance.

One of the qigong sets that I teach illustrates this well. In the five animal frolics, each animal is a short qigong form within the larger set. Sometimes we practice one or two, and sometimes we practice all of them. The animals teach wisdom lessons through the form.

The crane stands, gets ready, flies, draws in, then looks out at the world. This oscillation between stances and moves that focus inward and gather strength permits her to fly high once she’s ready to take off. Immediately after her flight, she withdraws into herself, and then she’s ready to look out at the world and prepare to take it on once more.

What a perfect model for the introvert activist! First practice stillness and strengthen your core. Then psych yourself to engage the world. Next fly high (“When they go low…” or otherwise). Now take the time to check back in with yourself, examine and address your own needs and gather your strength. Then look out and assess what you need to do next. Practice stillness again and repeat.

The tiger isn’t such an introvert. Our tiger begins by crouching, a more active inward motion. Then, she gets ready and then pounces. She doesn’t require as much stillness as the crane, but she still gives herself two steps to get herself ready before pouncing. She is cautious and builds her strength rather than squandering it. After pouncing, she draws back, much like the crane after flight. Finally, she looks over her environment to make sure there are no predators eager to steal her prey.

We, too, need to start by checking in with ourselves to assess and take care of our needs. Then, we need to prepare ourselves before acting, especially if we plan a powerful action. After our power move, we need to check in with ourselves again before shifting our gaze back outward.

The bear moves powerfully, walks, reaches, and acts with grace and an awareness that his every move influences the environment. The moves lack the inward and outward oscillation of the crane and tiger, but still, after a period of extended activity, the bear retreats for a period of hibernation. The more heavily we move about in the world, the more critical it is for us to take periods of retreat. Likewise, after a lengthy period of rest, we need to refocus outward.

Many of us are emulating the bear in making a shift now from focusing inward on our own lives and concerns to becoming activists in response to the challenges facing our country. We need to remember to continue alternating focus between activism and self-care.

To learn more about self-care, consider joining us for our upcoming Spa Day. Find out more on our event page, too. Herbs, shiatsu, and qigong can help you with your self-care, too!

To learn more about the conditions I have worked with, click here.