Staple and comfort food icon, the bean has been playing an essential role in the survival of people and animals since ancient times. Evidence has been unearthed that old-world legumes (lentils, peas, broad beans, chick peas and soybeans) have been used as food for more than 10,000 years in eastern Asia. Caches of lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs, signifying the reverence paid to this plant. Jason Ladock in “History of Legumes: Man’s Use of Legumes” on healthguidance.org writes that today “Legumes are second only to the cereal grasses as sources of human food and animal forage.”
Why are legumes so popular? Legumes, members of the bean or Fabaceae plant family have many significant attributes. An important source of protein and fiber, beans also are high in iron, potassium and magnesium. They are easy to grow, and when dry, many beans can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment. Besides the food nutrient benefits, the USDA Soil Quality Institute reports that beans have an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, with the help of symbiotic Rhizobia bacteria living in their roots, and supply up to 90 percent of their own nitrogen.