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Great northern beans important to valley’s economy, also a nutritional MPV
By Samantha Rivera
Nutrition Education Program Coordinator
UNL Extension, Scottsbluff
Great northern beans are a home-grown, locally produced food product vital to the economy of the Panhandle. At the same time, they provide a lot of nutritional value at an affordable price.
So cooking with dry edible beans is a natural recommendation to share with local residents through the Nutrition Education Program (NEP), which helps families on a limited budget improve the quality of their diet. UNL Extension administers the NEP program in Scotts Bluff County.
A recent NEP presentation at the local ResCare office provided participants with a bag of dry Great Northern Beans (provided by Kelley Bean) to be prepared at home, recipes and cooking tips, along with a list of health benefits and advantages of using in this locally grown bean.
There are many market classes of dry beans including pintos, black beans, kidney beans, navies, and others, and they all have their own distinct flavor, consistency, and texture.
Nebraska is the leading producer of Great Northern Beans in the United States. In 2012 the production count included 109,900,000 pounds of Great Northern beans, as well as 184,000,000 pounds of pintos.
Dry beans are important not only for economic benefits to the producer, but also for nutritional and economic benefits to the individual consumer. For a tight budget great northern beans will cost about a dollar per pound, which can be a great way to get your daily intake of protein and fiber.
A typical value meal fast food sandwich provides roughly 390 calories, 23 grams of protein, just 2 grams of fiber, and a whole 19 grams of fat. How do beans match up? Nutritionally Great Northern Beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein. One cup of beans provides 209 calories, roughly 15 grams of protein, 12 grams of dietary fiber, and less than 1 gram of fat. They are easy to prepare in a crockpot or quickly on the stove top, and can be used in salads, appetizers, dips, main dishes, and desserts.
To cook and prepare beans:
- Soak dry beans in water overnight for faster cooking times. Also soaking beans can decrease the amount of gas people often experience while digesting beans. To soak beans, allow for 3 cups of water per one cup of beans, and remember beans will triple in size.
- Cover beans with water or broth and cook them in a pot on medium setting, allowing them to simmer for 1-2 hours. When beans are fully cooked they will be tender. DO NOT cook beans in acidic fluids such as tomato or lemon juice, as the beans will not cook as well.
If you are in a hurry canned beans are still a healthy and economic alternative. A simple recipe for the upcoming summer season is a chilled bean salad:
- 1 small can diced tomato/green chili mix
- 1 small can whole kernel corn
- ¼ diced medium onion
- 2 tablespoons Italian dressing
- 1 ½ cup -2 cups drained beans
Mix all ingredients together and serve chilled
For more information on beans check out www.beansforhealth.com.