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Spilling the Beans

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The vines of beans climb the corn stalks, and the squash plants hold moisture in the ground. The Three Sisters—corn, beans and squash—work together and supply all the nutrition necessary for survival. I keep cans of beans and bags of dried beans in my pantry at all times. Both have an incredibly long shelf life, and are loaded with protein, fiber and B vitamins.

Nutritional value aside, beans are the basis for some of the most classic dishes around the world. Take snap beans for example, used in Chinese stirfry, Indian curry and Puerto Rican sofritos. Cuban and Caribbean cultures consider beans and rice a staple.

And American Indians, we could not make our beloved succotash without the lima. My other favorite types of legumes include kidney, navy, string bean, peas and soy. The tepary is a very traditional bean regaining popularity. The heat resistant bean, which thrives in the southern plains, especially among the Paiutes, was unavailable commercially for some time. But it has made a market comeback due to improved irrigation and farming methods. It is now embraced by Native chefs like Fernando Divina and Loretta Oden.

Pink Beans & Hominy

Pinto or red kidney beans can be used in place of pink beans. All have a savory flavor and are smooth in texture. Hominy, on the other hand, has a smoky, meaty corn flavor.

15-oz can hominy, white or yellow

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15-oz can pink or pinto beans

2 tablespoons corn meal

1/2 cup ground walnuts

Simmer the beans and hominy together. Combine the cornmeal and walnuts, and add to bean-hominy mixture. Simmer all until it thickens.

Variation: add a small can of chopped green chilies and eliminate the walnuts.

Dale Carson (Abenaki) is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking, and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for over 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.