By Ruvimbo Jeche
Dry beans are one of the oldest cultivated foods. The Sugar bean (common bean) is a grain legume which is very nutritious and rich in protein. The leaves, green pods, young and mature seeds are edible. The crop residues are good feed for livestock or form a good basis for compost manure. There is as well a ready market for sugar bean.
Growing beans is favorable in warm soil (minimum temperature of preferably above 13 degrees Celsius), consistent moisture and sunlight for at least 6-8 hours every day to thrive. Beans promote good health and reduce risk for, or improve outcomes of, several diseases including a decreased risk of breast, stomach, colorectal, kidney and prostate cancers in human. Thus, beans are included in many dietary recommendation frameworks.
Cholesterol lowering effect of dry beans is likely due to a combination of factors including binding and increased excretion of bile acids, promotion of short-chain fatty acid production, and disruption of cholesterol micelle formation. Several components of beans decrease cardiovascular disease: soluble fiber, phytosterols, magnesium, potassium, copper, and folate.
Interestingly, not only are beans easy and cheap to grow, they are also easy and cheap to prepare as food. Thus a quick courtesy to health is made with beans. Most importantly they can be grown in most parts of Zimbabwe. Together with bacteria, sugar bean forms root nodules. These bacteria are called rhizobia. In the root nodules, the bacteria can fix nitrogen from the air into a form that sugar bean can use for growth. Part of the fixed nitrogen is used to make protein in the grains, but some of the nitrogen is also left behind through falling leaves and roots. The nitrogen that is left behind improves soil fertility. This makes sugar bean a good crop to grow as intercrop or in rotation with other crops, because these other crops then also benefit from the nitrogen. Importantly an acre of beans can produce as much 15-20 tonnes harvest. Now the rain season has approached, beans can be an essential crop to invest in. Its health benefits are immense and in terms of wealth, good returns are guaranteed.