Beans are one of my favorite things to eat, and I am always amused by everyone’s jokes about them. The truth is not everyone gets gas when eating beans and, if they do, it likely has more to do with what they ate along with it. Only if you’re eating processed foods for much of your diet will you have a problem with gas after eating beans. People don’t understand that it’s their processed foods that cause them to have food interactions. Processed = anything with a label. When cooking beans, you simply clean, rinse, then soak. Long slow soaking, and long slow cooking is best. Don’t add salt or baking soda to beans when cooking, because the sodium prevents them from softening. Instead add a few fennel or cumin seeds, a slice of ginger, a bay leaf to soften the fiber, convert the sugars, and add nutrients to make beans more digestible. Cover and simmer until very soft.
Soaking loosens the skins, and releases the gas-causing oligosaccharides and converts the complex sugars into digestible form. How long to soak depends on the bean, but they should double in size, and be smooth. Chickpeas should be soaked overnight, up to 24 hours. It speeds things up to start with boiling hot water, and change the water several times.
You can also speed up soaking time by bringing the beans and water to a boil, skimming the foam, and then taking them off the heat to carry on soaking. Do the same with a pressure cooker, bringing the beans up to pressure, and then turning off the heat. Add nothing but water to the beans during soaking.
When cooking, discard the soaking water, and use fresh. Cover with cold fresh water, bring to a boil, skim the foam, and boil ten minutes uncovered. Again, this loosens the skins, and releases gaseous chemicals.
Spicing makes beans much easier to digest. That’s because herbs and spices are packed with vitamins, trace minerals, and natural pharmaceuticals, all of which alter the chemistry of food, and balance nutrition. Good spices for beans and lentils are fennel, coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric (for chick peas, and Indian dhals), paprika, asafetida (hing), cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Dry roast or heat in a little oil to bring out the flavor and reduce any bitterness. Herbs such as thyme, bay leaf, basil, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, cinnamon sticks are also good. Consult recipes for proportions.
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