Not only have beans been a staple in man's diet for thousands of years, they have shown up in some remarkable places. The Bible makes references to bean consumption. The Greeks held bean feasts to worship Apollo, the sun god, responsible for ripening the offerings of the earth. Beans have been found in pre-Colombian tombs and the pyramids of Egyptian pharaohs. Beans were even "tossed" by fortunetellers as a method of seeing the future.
Historians believe that ancient Peru and Mexico was the home of common beans. Over 7000 years ago they were domesticated and then slowly introduced to other parts of the world. With plenty of rainfall and long warm summers, North America presented an ideal climate for the cultivation of beans. Native Americans had technology for growing beans that was admired and adopted by the Pilgrims. They planted beans between cornrows, training the vines to grow up the tall corn stalks to reach the sun. Succotash is a Native American dish authentically made from corn and kidney beans. (Now lima beans are often used.) In parts of the world, the method of growing beans between rows of corn is still used.
By the 1880s, American bean production started to boom. Michigan was the center of bean growing, and the crop soon attracted new growers in Idaho, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming. American dry bean production grew during World War II to meet increased demand of use by American servicemen around the world. The demand held steady after the War as American food relief efforts improved. Today 14 states produce dry edible beans and Michigan is still the top state in production of Black Beans, Cranberry Beans, and Small Red Beans.
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