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3.1.5: Pods and Seeds

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    Pod and seed vegetables include corn, legumes and okra. They are grouped together here because the parts consumed are all the seeds of their respective plants. In some cases, only the seeds are eaten; in others, the pod containing the seeds are eaten as well. Seeds are generally higher in protein and carbohydrates (starch and fiber) than other vegetables.


    Sweet corn is actually a grain, a type of grass. Corn kernels, like peas, are plant seeds. (Dried corn products are discussed in Chapter 23, Potatoes, Grains and Pasta.) The kernels, which may be white or yellow, are attached to a woody, inedible cob. The cob is encased by strands of hair-like fibers called silks and covered in layers of thin leaves called husks.



    Beans and peas are members of the legume family, a large group of vegetables with double-seamed pods containing a single row of seeds. Of the hundreds of known varieties of beans, some are used for their edible pods, others for shelling fresh and some only for their dried seeds. Dried beans are actually several varieties of seeds or peas left in the pod until mature, then shelled and dried.

    Fresh Beans

    Beans used for their edible pods, commonly referred to as green beans, string beans, runner beans or snap beans, are picked when immature. Except for the stem, the entire pod can be eaten. This category includes the American green bean, the yellow wax bean and the French haricot vert, a long, slender pod with an intense flavor and tender texture.



    Dried Beans

    Anthropologists report that for thousands of years, cultures worldwide have preserved some members of the legume family by drying. Common dried beans include kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, black-eyed peas and split green peas. Shape is the clearest distinction among these products: Beans are oval or kidney-shaped; lentils are small, flat disks and peas are round.

    Beans and peas destined for drying are left on the vine until they are fully matured and just beginning to dry. They are then harvested, shelled, and quickly dried with warm air currents. Some dried legumes are sold split, which means the skin is removed, causing the seed's two halves to separate. Most dried beans need to be soaked in water before cooking. Soaking softens and rehydrates the beans, thus reducing cooking time.


    Shelling Peas

    Of the shelling peas that are prepared fresh, the most common are green garden peas (English peas) and the French petit pois. Because they lose flavor rapidly after harvest, most shelling peas are sold frozen or canned. 



    Edible Pea Pods

    Snow peas, also known as Chinese pea pods, are a common variety of edible pea pod. They are flat and have only a few very small green peas. Snow peas have a string along their seams that can be removed by holding the leafy stem and pulling from end to end. 




    Okra, a common ingredient in African and Arab cuisines, was brought to the United States by slaves and French settlers . It is now integral to Creole, Cajun, southern and southwestern cuisines. Its mild flavor is similar to that of asparagus. 


    This page titled 3.1.5: Pods and Seeds is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by William R. Thibodeaux.

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