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Promoting Dried Beans




dried beans

Cool Stuff About Beans!

Did you know Minnesota ranks 4th in the nation for dry bean production? In 2005, Minnesota farmers planted 145,000 acres. This is like planting 110,000 football fields of dry beans! The top three varieties grown in Minnesota are pinto, navy, and dark red kidney beans.

Beans have been grown for over 7,000 years in Peru and southern Mexico. Beans belong to the family of plants called legumes. A legume is a plant that produces seeds in a pod (fruit) and has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Dry beans expand to about 2-1/2 times their original size when soaked.

Beans are one of the most nutritionally complete foods available. In fact, no other food comes close to beans in providing protein, complex carbohydrates, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and soluble fiber together in high amounts.

Beans are the only food that fit into two food groups on the USDA’s MyPyramid: vegetable and protein.

Ask your family to pick some up at your local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. You can eat them fresh in salads, burritos, soups, or on you can eat them using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch you will have the opportunity to sample beans in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.

dried beans

In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown beans from [FARM NAME] in [CITY]. Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

  1. Minnesota ranks 4th in the nation for dry bean production. The top three varieties grown are pinto, navy, and dark red kidney beans. How many football field-sized areas of beans were planted in Minnesota in 2005?
  2. Why are beans considered “nutritionally complete” foods?
  3. Beans are the only food that fit into two food groups on the USDA’s MyPyramid. What are those two food groups?

Trivia Answers

  1. About 110,000 football fields or 145,000 acres.
  2. No other food comes close to beans in providing protein, complex carbohydrates, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and soluble fiber together in high amounts.
  3. Vegetable and protein.

MS Word version of Newsletter

dried beans

History and Origin

  • Beans have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years and are one of the earliest food crops cultivated.
  • Common beans were domesticated about 7,000 years ago in both Peru (the Andean center of domestication) and southern Mexico (the MesoAmerican center of domestication). Both centers of domestication have a wide array of colors.
  • In fact, in Mexico, the Native people developed white beans, black beans and all other colors and color patterns. In the Andes the same is true, but very lively and bright colors were developed. The tribes in Mexico started cultivating small-seeded varieties, while at the same time, the natives in Peru were developing large-seeded types. Since Native tribes crisscrossed the American continent, these beans and native farming practices spread gradually all over North and South America as groups explored, migrated and traded with other tribes.
  • By the time Portuguese and Spanish explorers discovered the New World, several varieties of beans were already flourishing. The early explorers and traders subsequently shared American bean varieties around the world, and by the early 17th century, beans also were popular crops in Europe, Africa and Asia.


  • The calorie content of one cup of cooked beans is equal to one cup of cooked rice, pasta, or a 7-ounce baked potato; yet beans are substantially higher in dietary fiber. Beans are very low in sodium and offer many of the same nutrients as meat, but without the fat and cholesterol. They also provide more nutrients than a serving of oatmeal or oat bran.

Did you know…?

  • Pinto beans are various shades of brown and tan. Much of Minnesota's production of pinto beans is in the western portion of the state, the soil rich Red River Valley area. Pinto beans are commonly used in Mexican dishes such as refried beans.
  • Navy beans are small, round, white, pea-shaped beans. Navy beans are mostly canned as ready-to-use products or for use as an ingredient in other dishes.
  • Dark red kidney beans are large and kidney-shaped. Mostly canned, these beans are often used in chili, soups and salads.
  • The physical shape of the seed helps distinguish beans from peas and lentils. Usually, beans are kidney-shaped or oval, peas are round and lentils are flat disks. Most dry beans grown in this country belong to the species Phaseolus vulgaris, or common bean.
  • The term "dry beans" includes varieties of beans other than green beans, string beans and soybeans. Dry beans are available uncooked in sealed bags or pre-cooked in cans.
  • Beans are planted in May or June in Minnesota and take about 12-14 weeks to grow to full height. Once the plant has matured, it begins to develop small flowers that vary in color depending on the bean variety. The flowers give way to pods, within which the small beans begin to form.
  • The warm summer days ripen the beans inside the pods. One or two weeks before harvest, the plants change color from green to golden yellow, signaling they are ready for harvest. The American bean harvest begins in August and continues in various parts of the country until late October.
  • Americans are the chief consumers of beans. Per capita consumption is approximately 7.5 pounds. Twenty percent of American-grown beans are shipped to international markets, helping to feed the world.

How to Eat Beans

  • top salads with drained, cooked beans
  • add chopped vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and peppers to cooked beans and toss with your favorite low-fat salad dressing
  • add beans to your favorite salsa
  • make chili with two or more varieties of beans
  • add another bean variety to canned chili
  • top cornbread with chili
  • serve a side of baked beans
  • roll up a burrito shell with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese
  • add beans to your favorite soup
  • add beans as a topping for tacos
  • have a bean dip with tortilla chips

The above information was compiled from:

dried beans


Tasting Poster (566 K PDF)

Three-Column Poster (226 K PDF)

Index Card 439 K PDF)


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variety of dry beans

Variety of Dry Beans

photo by Brett Olson
Renewing the Countryside
pinto beans

Pinto Beans

photo by Brett Olson
Renewing the Countryside
Minnesota dry beans

Minnesota dry beans

photo provided by
Northarvest Bean Growers Association
dried beans

Bean Buffet (ages 4 and older)

Skills: Sensory tasting, comparing, decision-making
Materials: Variety of prepared dry bean dishes such as baked beans, calico beans, refried beans, minestrone (with cannellini beans), etc., plates and utensils for tasting; graph for recording which liked best.
Activity: Prepare a variety of beans. Have dry beans beside dish so children can compare cooked to dry product. Have children write down, by smiles and frowns, which bean dishes they liked.

Sorting and Comparing (ages 2 and older)

Skills: Sorting, comparing, small motor skill development
Materials: Different varieties of Minnesota-grown dry beans such as: navy, dark red kidney, pinto, light red kidney, pink, cannellini, great northern, and black; egg cartons
Activity: Give small paper cup filled with mixed beans. Sort beans by type into the egg carton. Ask: What makes one bean look different than another? Which beans do you have the most of? The least of? About the same amount?

Pour and Measure (ages 3 and older)

Skills: Quantitative analysis, fine motor development, observation, size &
shape determinations, comparison skills
Materials: Provide dry beans, funnel, dishpan, containers of different sizes
(cup, pint, quart, gallon) measuring cups and spoons.
Activity: Using measuring equipment, fill containers with dry beans. Use
words such as: full, empty, half, whole, how much, how many spoons
or cups, level, more, less.

How Many Beans? (ages 4 and older)

Skills: Decision making, estimation, and counting, understanding least to
most comparison skills
Materials: Clear jars of different sizes, rubber bands, dried beans, pencil and
Activity: Place rubber bands around different sized clear jars. Have students place beans in jars filling up to the rubber band line. Let students guess which jars have the most beans which the least. Record each guess. After guessing have students count exact number of beans. Return the beans to the jars and place in order from the most beans to the least.
Discuss the activity: Which jar contains the most beans? The least beans? Why? Which have the same number? What made some jars look like they had more than others? Did any jars surprise you with the number of beans they held?

Bean Germination/Wake Up Little Beans (ages 4 and older)

Skills: Language skill development, fine motor skills, following direction; prediction and observation
Materials: Tall clear glasses or jars (at least 4” with straight sides); dark colored construction paper, paper towels, dry bean seeds; water; warm spot (65-75°F)
Activity: Line the inside of each glass with construction paper. Trim off the top edge of the paper so it is even with the glass. Crumple paper towels and put into the glass. Slip a bean between construction paper and each glass side about half way up the side of the glass. Slowly pour water into the center of the paper towels until the construction paper is wet but not underwater. Put glass in a warm place. Keep the paper towels moist and check the seed’s progress daily.

Dried Bean Dominos (ages 4 and older)

Skills: Following direction, counting, matching, fine motor skill development
Materials: 26 index cards, dry beans, glue, marking pen
Activity: To make dominos, draw a line through the middle of each index card. Glue beans on the card to make the domino dots. Each half can have zero to six dots, no two cards should have the same combination of numbers. When the glue has dried, allow the children to use the cards to play dominos.

Food Collages (ages 3 and older)

Skills: Fine-motor skills, gluing, creativity
Materials: Mixed dry beans, glue and sturdy paper
Activity: Have children place glue on their papers. Cotton swabs can be used to spread glue on the paper and create designs. Place dry beans on glued area.

Bean Tambourine (ages 4 and older)

Skills: Fine and gross motor skills, rhythm and music
Materials: 2 paper plates or aluminum pie pans, crayons, ribbon or yarn, crepe paper, construction paper, dry beans, masking tape, glue.
Activity: Decorate paper plates or aluminum pie pans with crayons, construction paper, yarn and/or ribbon. Put a handful of dry beans on one paper plate. Lay the other paper plate down over the first and tape around the edges. Add crepe paper ruffles or streamers.

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