The seeds and pods of a wide variety of leguminous plants, beans are usually served as a vegetable. The seeds are a very good source of protein and of vitamin B and, when fresh, beans also contain vitamins A and C. In Europe until the sixteenth century, the only vegetable known as a bean was the broad bean. Today, however, the name applies to a large variety of this type of vegetable.
Among the various types of available beans are broad beans or Windsor beans, which are known as fava beans in the United
States. Butter beans, large, flat and white, were originally found in South America. Flageolet, which are the pale green seeds of a choice variety of haricot or French beans, are usually sold dried in Britain. French beans are a smaller, more delicate bean than runner beans, but k i they are of the same family and the pods as well as the seeds are eaten.
Haricot is the name given to a wide variety of bean plants, the best known being the French and kidney bean. In Britain this name is applied more parti-cularly to the dried white seeds of dwarf or climbing haricot plants. In the United States these are known as navy beans.
Haricots vary considerably in size and can be green, brown, purple or red. Kidney beans are large, dark red, kidney-shaped beans which are often used for baked beans. Lima beans, originally from South America, are a delicate green or white colour and are of the haricot variety. The seeds may be eaten fresh or dried.
Oca beans, also known as black-eye peas or cow beans, are small, white peas with a black spot. They are used in cooking in the United States, particularly in the south. Pinto beans, which are dappled pink in colour, and black beans are primarily eaten in Mexico where they are called frijoles. Runner beans, also called scarlet runners and string beans, are larger and longer than French beans. Soya beans, which are Chinese in origin, are rich in vegetable protein with a fairly high fat but low starch content.