Characteristics of beans (Phaseolus)

Description of beans

Beans are food plants of the Papilionaceous family, in which there are as well known trees as the carob tree or herbs as alfalfa. Beans are another species of papilionaceous used as food for the nutritional value of seeds enclosed in their pods.

Beans are members of the genus Phaseolus. They are generally plants with erect stems varieties or they can grow as spreading or climbing vines. By twining stems, they have the ability to curl up on any medium that is within reach.

Their leaves are compound, trifoliate, with the central leaflet more or less oval and diamond-like those on the side. Their flowers are white, stained with purple or yellow. Their fruits are vegetables (green pods within which the seeds lie). Both, the pods and the seeds, when tender, are edible.

Beans are grown in many regions of the world, we can dispose of a variety of sizes and colors (See types of beans) The development of numerous varieties and the cultivation techniques has allowed us to have the option of eating the seeds of these plants as well as the whole fruit when it is immature.

Origin of beans

Beans come from semi-tropical regions of South America, probably from the Peruvian Altiplano and Central America, especially Mexico. They were grown from pre-Columbian times, 8000 BC, according to remains found in excavations of Aztecs or Incas, who were the people who most improved this crop.

These people knew beans by the name of ayacotl and they did not used them only as food but as a currency which gives us an idea of how important this plant was, along with corn, among these civilizations.

Beans were brought to Europe by Spanish colonists, via Canary Islands. Over time they have received different names according to the origin of the word, so, for example the Spanish word “alubia” is derived from the Arabic allubia, while the word “frijol”, spanish name used in America, comes from Phaseolus that was the name by which the Greeks called this type of plant.

In Catalan, it derives from the Greek word “FESOL” which is the name as the beans seeds are called in Catalonia. The Arabs also knew this plant as “fabiula“, which led to fabichuela in Mozarabic and, hence, the current name of “habichuela ” is another common Spanish name to refer to beans.

In English it derives from Middle English “bene”, from Old English “bean

Bean production in the world

Photo of bean plant
Photo of bean plant with the flowers and the fruits

The largest producer of dry beans in the world is India. This is followed by Brazil, China, USA and Mexico. As for green beans, the world’s largest producer is the United States following China, Japan, Spain and France.

Drawing of beans, dwarf French variety

punto rojo More information on beans

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

31 October, 2022

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