Herbs & Plants
Of The Southwest
Beans are one of the traditional “Three Sisters” triad that were planted together, grew in a state of happy mutual benefit together, and were the mainstays of the Native American diet. The protein food sources of the Old World was greatly improved when Native American beans were introduced, and Europeans eagerly adopted kidney beans, string beans, snap beans, butter beans, lima beans, navy beans, pole beans, etc.
The descriptive term “common bean” includes all the dry field varieties such as navy, kidney, pinto, northern, marrow and so on, plus all the edible pod types of beans, such as green, snap and stringless. The ancestor of these beans is believed to have originated in Central America long before the arrival of Columbus and distributed along prehistoric trade routes, as many different varieties of beans were cultivated by that time.
Today, the dry field varieties of beans are a very important source of protein, for vegetarians, those wishing to cut down on cholesterol intake, and in countries where meat consumption is not as possible as in America. But it is very important to remember, for proper nutrition, that the protein of beans must be combined with other protein foods, such as cheese, in order to have a full complement of all the amino acids necessary.
The ancient symbol of the curled sprouting bean, the “Nakwach”, is found throughout the Southwest in Ancestral Puebloan rock art, and symbolizes life and rebirth. Many of our children first learn about the wonder of plant growth by planting a bean in soil and a paper cup.