Since I have become interested in growing my own vegetables I decided to order a few packets of seeds from Italy. I just planted them a few weeks ago, so the seeds have just begun to sprout.

It is winter now in South Africa so I don't have many crops, but cannot wait until the Spring time so that I can plant my Italian vegetables for the Summer.

I’m especially looking forward to the many varieties of Italian beans there are to choose from. The closest I have ever come to Borlotti or Cannellini Beans in the supermarket was from a tin, so I’m already feeling inspired.

Fresh beans are a big part of every Italian’s diet. There are many varieties of beans and they differ depending on the particular region. The beans you will find in the South of Italy will be different to that of the North.

If you are thinking of growing your own beans, you will be happy to hear they are one of easiest vegetable out there to grow, so give it a bash. Make sure you have a trellis or some sort of support  available.

Let's have a look at the most common beans that Italians love to get stuck into:

Cannellini Beans

Cannellini Beans resemble the white kidney bean. These Beans come from Northern Italy and are the most popular white bean in Tuscany.

They make up many classic dishes. Cannellini Beans have a nutty flavor and smooth texture. Cannellini Beans are great for the diet. On a nutritional scale a single serving contains 20% of the recommended daily values for the diet. 

canellini beans

Fava Beans

Fresh Fava Beans are a staple of Southern Italian Cuisine, especially in Sicily, Puglia, Campania and Abruzzo. Buying Fava Beans already skinned and split is the preferred way of doing things.

In this way they are easy to prepare, there is no need to soak them for hours and sometimes you will find a slight hint of bitterness after these particular beans have been cooked.

fava beans

Borlotti Beans

These are also known as Cranberry Beans, comes from the Northern Italian region. It is a popular meat substitute and one of the healthiest beans because of its high concentration of iron These red and brown speckled beans are beautiful in appearance when fresh. When they are cooked, they turn dark brown on the outside and yellowish in the inside.

borlotti beans

Romano Beans

Romano are similar to snap peas. They are also referred to as Italian flat beans. The Romano variety are typically green, but they also come in yellow and purple varieties.

When selecting these in markets and food stalls, make sure they are crisp. They should snap easily between your fingers. You will find these being grown all over Italy, but are not as popular as any of the other types already mentioned.

OK, enough with Italy - Moving onto Brazil......

What Beans mean to Brazilians

Before  I ventured into Brazil I was told all I was going to eat was rice and beans. This of course turned me off a bit. I had seen my Brazilian friends this and turned down many invites to sample their food.

However, when I arrived in Brazil my taste buds were really happy. I didn’t get tired of eating them with a special long-grain rice. They are usually served in a special sauce and mixed with the rice.

You will find these differ as you travel to various regions of Brazil. Those in the South are not the same as those found in the North.

If you are in Sao Paulo you will have to try Feijoada. This is a traditional dish that is served with a whole lot of meat, such as pork, beef, sausages and most important black beans. It is prepared over two days so if you want to learn how to make it you will have to patient. It is definitely worth the effort.

When Brazilians come on holiday or to stay in another country for a long period it is usually the food that they will start to talk about and miss the most. Rice and beans are never the same than in their home town.

Here are some of the most popular beans in South America

Black beans

These are also known as Black Turtle Beans and are one of the most popular types available in cooking in South America. They are also fairly popular in North America for a couple of vegetarian dishes.

They have a taste similar to mushrooms and recent research have  revealed that they are an extremely good source in providing antioxidants.

The Pinto Bean

These are also popular in Mexico and are named for their little spots on their skin. You could eat these in burritos just like the Mexicans do or as refried beans.

They taste great mashed up a little and added to a soup with a variety of other beans and lentils with a few other veggies thrown in. Nothing better on a cold Winter’s day!

Lima Beans

These originated in Peru. They are a good source for fiber and cholesterol. This particular variety is fantastic for all sorts of heart disease.  They keep the blood flowing regularly and the blood sugar does not rise after eating them, which means they are also good for diabetics. They also contain a lot of Iron.

Overall, this has earned itself a good score when it comes to the nutrition scale. They are exported to the United Kingdom and known as the Butter Bean. They are great in a stew or a curry, bringing in extra flavor, and adding some bulk.

What I love about Brazilian food is that it brings everyone together. It is not often that you will be sitting by yourself eating a plate of food and there is always plenty of it available. “Pass the beans”, someone would shout from one end of the table and the party starts.