If you drive around Michigan’s farmlands this summer and notice acres upon acres of low-lying green plants, you may be surprised to learn that you’re looking at something likely to make it into your next bowl of chili. Even if you enjoy that bowl of chili in a restaurant halfway across the world.
Many people are unaware that Michigan is one of the largest producers of dried beans, not just in the United States, but in the world. Its prominence as a major bean producer began in the 1800’s before states like Idaho, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico got into the act.
Today, 14 states produce dry, edible beans in the United States, and Michigan is the top state in production of black beans, cranberry beans, and small red beans. Our production is SO great that over half of Michigan beans are exported throughout the world. In Michigan, beans are BIG business with more than 2,200 growers and related agri-business associates registered with the Michigan Bean Commission located in Frankenmuth, yet it’s Huron County, located at the top of Michigan’s thumb, that’s our state’s largest producer by county.
Michigan beans are planted in May and June and harvested from August to late October. Our state’s three major bean varieties are cranberry, black bean and small red dark, which we grow more than anyone in the country. Next, there’s kidney, light red kidney, adzuki, pinto, navy, and yellow eye beans. Overall, Michigan is the 2nd largest producer of dried beans in America behind North Dakota. And that’s saying quite a lot because the United States is BY FAR the world’s leader in dry bean production.
And while Americans are the chief consumers of these beans, 40 percent are shipped to international markets in more than 100 countries around the globe.
So, who gives a hill of beans?
Well, if you’re looking for an inexpensive, healthy and delicious way to improve your health, YOU should. Beans provide a wealth of B vitamins, protein, iron, copper and magnesium. They’re also low in calories, fat and sodium, and high in fiber. In addition, a serving (1/3 cup of cooked beans) contains around 80 calories, no cholesterol and lots of complex carbohydrates
That’s a good reason beans are used extensively in the cuisines of literally hundreds of countries (representing literally billions of people). They make great soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, cakes, fillings, dips and spreads.
Bean there, done that.
Michigan celebrates its love of beans each Labor Day at the annual Michigan Bean Festival in Fairgrove, where you can taste all sorts of great recipes and have a wonderful weekend of bean fun. If you’d like more information about beans, the many types and how to soak and cook them, check out: “Nino’s Delicious Guide to Beans.”
You also might enjoy one of the many bean-inclusive recipes on Nino’s Website. Here are just a few: