Cautionary Tale: Sort Through Dried Beans!


Fall and winter usher in the season of warm, hearty bean dishes (and I am not talking about fresh green beans).  Sure, while you can purchase cans of beans from a grocery store, homemade cooked beans (starting from dried) offers a flavor profile that just can’t be beat.  A pot of beans simmering on the stove is homey and perfumes the air with a savory aroma.

Unless you grow the beans yourself, you can purchase them from a variety of vendors: grocery store, farmer’s market, specialty grocery, or even direct from a CSA (community supported agriculture).  Examples of beans that are sold dried include, but not limited to the following: pinto, navy, black, kidney, cannellini, black-eyed peas, great northern, lima, adzuki, and cranberry.

sorted and washed pinto beans

sorted and washed pinto beans

But before you dump the beans into a pot, there are a few things to keep in mind.

 Dried bean package “extras”

  1. Packaged beans may contain debris – stems, husks, leaves, and even small pebbles may be included
  2. Unsuitable beans may be included – shriveled beans, ones with visible mold, and broken beans may be in the package
  3. Dried beans may not be clean –  dust or even bits of dirt may cling to the beans

This brings me back to the cautionary tale.  Simply dumping beans into a sieve to rinse before placing the beans into a pot is not sufficient.  Those package “extras” may show up in any bag.  And if you are unlucky… some of those extras may bear a striking resemblance to the beans in the bag, necessitating sorting one-by-one.

Case in point, I present to you “The Crown Cracker”.  Yes, this pebble was the same size at the larger beans.  Yet somehow it managed escape winnowing.

pinto bean and pebble in the same package

pinto bean and pebble in the same package

As another example, there are several beans in the photo below that appeared to be partially covered in a whitish mold.  Now while I may not be a top chef, I do know that a moldy bean does not make for good eating.

moldy beans with assorted shriveled beans and pebbles

moldy beans with assorted shriveled beans and pebbles

So please, I beg you… sort through your beans BEFORE you put the lot of them into a bean pot.  Not only will you end up with a great tasting batch of beans, but this cautionary tale may also save you a trip to the dentist office.




9 responses »

  1. Pingback: Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop #187 | Farmgirl Unleashed

  2. Thanks for the reminder that just because beans come in a bag doesn’t mean they’ve been sorted as carefully as your dentist might wish!

  3. In my state one of the small towns has a bean fest, during which they give out free plates of beans and cornbread. They cook them on an open fire in big black kettles. One year we went early, as they were setting up. Imagine my surprise to watch them open bags of dried beans and dump them in the pot. No rinsing, no sorting. Eww. I realize that sorting & rinsing beans for a crowd of hundreds would take longer but it is an annual event and they have all year to get ready for it.

    • Oh… love the idea of a bean fest. Is it for a particular type of bean grown in the area? But yes, I would be surprised to see that the beans weren’t sorted. (You just never know what makes it through the winnowing process).

  4. Are there any types beans that are bad to eat in and of themselves? We got a nasty case of food poisoning after a meal of ham and beans. The beans were from our own garden and some of them were from green beans that got left to grow to big. I thought they were all edible and I do blame it on the ham but we are not going to be eating beans anytime soon all the same.

    • I have not come across any varieties of beans that are bad to eat. As long as the beans have been sorted through, removing any shriveled ones as well as those that appear to have an odd coating (perhaps mold that had begun to develop, but halted as the beans dried. We have also eaten the bean portion from green beans that had gotten too large to enjoy fresh. We let them dry naturally and then prepared them just like any other dried bean. They were quite tasty.

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