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Promoters of dry edible beans toot the crop's horn

Several speakers and panels at the annual Northarvest Bean Day talked about the health benefits of dry edible beans and the work underway to promote the crop domestically and internationally.

A man wearing a white shirt and dark sport coat speaks to farmers.
Juan Osorno, a North Dakota State University dry edible bean breeder, spoke to farmers at Northarvest Bean Day, held Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo, North Dakota, about edible bean varietal trials.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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FARGO, N.D. — The dry edible bean industry wants the world to know the nutritional benefits of edible beans, and they touted those and the efforts underway to promote the crop at the annual Northarvest Bean Day in Fargo.

Several speakers and panelists at the annual Northarvest Bean Growers Association's annual event, held Jan. 19, talked about the health benefits of dry edible beans and work underway to promote that domestically and internationally.

Edible beans’ high fiber and protein content and long shelf life make them a nutritious food for international food aid programs, and the U.S. Dry Bean Council has plans in 2023 to promote them in a variety of ways, said Thoric Cederstrom, staff leader for U.S. Dry Bean Council food aid committee, who spoke virtually at Northarvest Bean Day. The USDBC is a private trade association made up of leaders in the bean industry whose goal is to promote edible beans in the United States and overseas, and to teach U.S. consumers about the benefits of beans.

The U.S. Dry Bean Council's proposed promotional plans during the next year include exploring new ways to cook beans that takes less time and uses less water — two things that make the beans difficult to use when both are in short supply during emergencies — hosting a “Bean Extravaganza," which would bring international buyers to U.S. bean areas to show them how the crop is grown and developing new products that could be used internationally in supplementary and school feeding programs and also in commercial markets.

There also are efforts underway domestically to find other uses for edible beans as a way to increase the amount of edible beans consumed.

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"U.S. consumers are not eating beans at the levels that are recommended,” said Karen Cichy, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist in East Lansing, Michigan. According to the U.S. Dietary guidelines, people should eat about three cups of legumes, including beans, per week, which would equal about one-half cup of beans per day.

Cichy, who was part of a panel called "Bean Genetics for Consumers," spoke virtually about her work researching which varieties of pinto beans are optimal for use in flour and pasta, two foods that potentially would increase the amount of the legumes that people consume.

The research shows that pinto beans with higher protein levels make the best flour and the firmest pasta, Cichy said. The pasta also contains cassava flour, which has a mild taste that tempers the taste of the pintos. Earlier studies have shown that pasta made out of 100% pinto bean flour doesn’t taste as good as pasta that also contains cassava flour, she said.

Cichy applauded the efforts of organizations, such as Northarvest Bean Growers Association, to promote the health benefits of edible beans.

“I really appreciate the recognition that you are working with such a nutritious crop and you value it as much as we do,” she said.

Besides growing a nutritious crop, edible bean farmers also have an opportunity to take advantage of consumers' interest in eating food that has been grown using sustainable methods that can be traced back to the grower, said John Berthold, president of Green Valley Bean Co. in Park Rapids, Minnesota.

“They want to know where their beans come from and ask growers what they put on their crops. I think that’s an opportunity going forward,” Berthold said.

In 2022, Minnesota and North Dakota edible bean farmers produced a quality, large yielding crop with good seed color, despite a delayed planting season, said Juan Osorno, an NDSU dry edible bean breeder. Although the growing season started out cold and wet, the weather from mid-July through the end of the growing season was ideal for crop development. Meanwhile, disease pressure was low because the weather was dry.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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