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Fri 6th Jan, 2017 was...

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6th Jan each year

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Beans are a common food around the globe and for good reason: they’re rich in fiber, protein, and can be delicious. You might think of beans only as an ingredient in chili con carne or baked beans, but they’re not limited to these applications – in Japan, for instance, red beans are commonly used in desserts. There are also various Chinese sweets that also incorporate either red beans or mung beans. That, of course, excludes things like soya beans which are used both fresh (as edamame) as well as in various sauces and condiments ranging from soya sauce to miso and various fermented condiments found throughout southeast Asia and northeast India. Tempeh and tofu are also made from soya bean and that just goes to show how versatile and essential beans are to various cuisines worldwide. So whether you’re indulging in a nice steamy bowl of chili or a Japanese sweet, there are numerous ways to celebrate humble beans.

History of Bean Day
The day commemorates the death of the geneticist Gregor Mendel, whose experiments with breeding pea plants formed the basis of modern genetics. From what we could find, it would appear that Paula Bowen is the creator of Bean Day. Her main reasons were that there aren’t many holidays to celebrate around the time that Bean Day has typically been celebrated. Plus she thought that the world needed a day to honor Mr. Bean. Her father was a pinto bean farmer, so she’s pretty familiar with beans in general and no doubt was raised on them. Beans are also healthy and common in many cuisines throughout the world, so we’re not at all surprised that there’s a day dedicated to their celebration.

Electronic greeting card websites seem to have a lot of references to Bean Day, but we’re not sure if it actually means that e-card companies actually invented Bean Day or if they’ve just been the most effective at capitalizing on it. Small matter though – if you hate beans and don’t want to have anything to do with them on Bean Day, you can still send greeting cards to your friends to mark the occasion. Some people think that it’s actually called ‘National Bean Day’, but there’s no congressional record nor any presidential proclamation for such a day. So it’s safe to assume that it’s not an officially recognized occasion.

How to Celebrate Bean Day
Beans are one of the most versatile food items. The best day to celebrate Bean Day would be to involve beans in all of your meals for the day, particularly in places where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them. Start the day with a traditional full English breakfast, which includes baked beans and toast among all of the other things, then have an ordinary lunch followed by red bean ice cream or red bean mochi, and for dinner prepare some meal which involves beans – chili, black beans and rice, white bean soup, North Indian rajma, or any other bean specialty.

Since we want to encourage you to celebrate Bean Day,, we’re including a bean recipe to help stir your creativity. Olan is a traditional mildly-spiced vegetarian curry that comes from the south Indian state of Kerala and it includes not just beans but also coconut milk and pumpkin. You could have it on its own with rice or even rotis, but it’s equally delicious as part of a larger meal. So here’s the recipe, it’s actually really simple to make:

1/2 cup dried red cowpeas (or any other red beans – there’s no reason why you couldn’t use kidney beans), soaked overnight in water
3 cups thin coconut milk
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
2 green chilies, slit
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
6 sliced shallots
6 curry leaves (you can find them in an Indian grocer, or if you can’t just leave them out if you have to)

Cook the beans in the thin coconut milk with green chillies, cumin, and salt in a medium saucepan for 25-30 minutes (until they’re soft). Add the pumpkin and cook for another five minutes, then stir in the thick coconut milk, remove from heat, and keep aside. Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, sputter, and fly all over your kitchen, add the shallots and curry leaves. Fry until they’re light brown. Stir in the seasoned oil with the pumpkin-bean curry and it’s ready to eat. Happy Bean Day!

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