The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







This article is on the plant. For alternate meanings, see Bean (disambiguation)
Green beans
Green beans

Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae) used for food or feed.



Bean originally meant the seed of the broad bean, but was later broadened to include members of the genus Phaseolus such as the common bean or haricot and the runner bean and the related genus Vigna. The term is now applied in a general way to many other related plants such as soybeans, peas, lentils, vetches and lupins.

Bean can be used as a near synonym of pulse, i.e. an edible legume, though the term "pulses" is usually reserved for those leguminous crops which are harvested for their dry grain. Pulses then exclude those crops mainly used for oil extraction (like soybean and peanut) or those used exclusively for sowing purposes (clover and alfalfa). Leguminous crops harvested green for food like snap beans, green peas etc. are classified as vegetable crops.

In English usage beans sometimes also refer to seeds or other organs of non leguminosae, for example coffee beans, castor beans and cocoa beans (which resemble bean seeds), and vanilla beans (which resemble the pods).

Types of bean

Cultural aspects

The following traditional uses of beans refer to the broad bean.

In ancient Greece and Rome, beans were used in voting (a white bean meant yes and a black bean meant no) and as a food for the dead, such as during the annual Lemuria festival.

In some folk legends, such as in Estonia and the common Jack and the Beanstalk story, magical beans grow tall enough to bring the hero to the clouds. The Grimm Brothers collected a story in which a bean splits its sides laughing at the failure of others.

Dreaming of a bean is sometimes said to be a sign of impending conflict, though others said they caused bad dreams.

Pliny claimed they acted as a laxative.

European folklore also claims that planting beans on Good Friday or during the night-time is good luck.

See also

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