Safe to eat raw black beans?
September 14, 2016 5:29 PM   Subscribe

On a whim I bought raw fresh black beans at the farmers market. I simmered them for about 45 minutes, but they're still firm. Can I eat them?

Googling how to cook raw black beans has been surprisingly difficult. Every answer that comes up is about dry vs. canned beans.
posted by postel's law to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bon Appetit seems to think you should just cook until tender. Can't hurt to taste one and then cook more if they're definitely still not cooked.

In preview: rudd is right that I've never seen fresh black beans at Farmer's Markets, but I always assumed that was supply/demand. Hum.
posted by theweasel at 5:36 PM on September 14, 2016

Is it possible they meant freshly *dried* beans?
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you boiled them at all? Beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin. It gets destroyed by high heat but can be an issue with beans that haven't been boiled. Apparently kidney beans are of particular concern because they contain especially high amounts, but other beans have it too. (To be fair: I did not know this until recently, and I have cooked beans in crock pots and been fine, but it is something to be aware of and careful about.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2016

My wife has a fresh shell bean obsession. I find that cooking time can vary really widely. Id just keep cooking them.

Like ive had beans take ten minutes, I've had them take an hour.
posted by JPD at 6:32 PM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

I simmered them for about 45 minutes

That's not raw. And even if they were raw, you'd be fine.

Beans can be eaten as fresh green beans, shell beans, dried beans, or inbetweens . Certain varieties are optimized to one end or the other, but they're all Phasoleus, and you can eat them all any way.

What you probably bought at the farmers market were fresh shell beans. That is a traditional way of eating beans, but only recently making its way back to mass market. They should not need nearly as much boiling as fully dried beans, and they should also hold their mouthfeel and firmness much better than dried.

They will basically never get to the mushy stage canned black beans come in, that's a feature, not a bug :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:39 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is not the first about these exact vendors. (I'm pretty sure there was another more recent one too but I can't find it, maybe it was on a different site.)

I buy beans from this vendor at the Baltimore downtown farmer's market regularly, and they've been selling them there for years. To answer some of the questions above, they are not dried, they are not "freshly dried", or anything like that. They are just fresh beans, the OP is not hallucinating, and they are delicious.

In my experience they do still take some time to cook, and I had to work at it to get the timing right for the black beans. You do have to be concerned about undercooked fresh red beans, but black beans are ok and I have eaten at least one batch undercooked (probably at the exact stage you're at) and lived. But I'd recommend continuing to simmer them for at least another 20 minutes or so, adding water if needed (I haven't done this since last season so I'm a bit rusty on my timings). They will reach a less solid texture, but won't get mushy without a lot of work. I don't recommend soaking them. I do recommend seasoning them fairly heavily -- I often cook them with a generous amount of hot pepper of some kind, garlic, and onions.
posted by advil at 6:43 PM on September 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Even if they won't hurt you if undercooked, they will taste better when cooked til tender. I recommend further cooking.
posted by mai at 8:01 PM on September 14, 2016

Black beans take forever to cook. Pinto beans, navy beans, butter beans -- they're all a lot faster. That's just my experience -- it's not like I'm some Bean Meister or what-have-you, just that I like black beans and have found they take longer than my second favorite, pinto beans.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:06 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yup, even fresh they take a long time to cook. Although some legumes (chickpeas!) can be eaten straight out of the pod, I'd be a little more careful with black/red/pintos, both because of the possible toxins and because they are just tastier cooked.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:37 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Parboiled black beans are a popular Korean side dish called Kongjabon. They are sweet, salty black beans that are still al dente and are eaten one at a time. Many of the recipes I've found online neglect to mention that the beans are intentionally left "undercooked", but some do.
posted by defreckled at 4:13 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Rancho Gordo sells heirloom beans, fresh and dried, and they have great bean-cooking instructions on their site. Among their tips: it helps to soak even fresh beans (though not for over 6 hours, or they may sprout), you need to get them up to a hard boil before reducing to a simmer, and salting before the end of the cooking time may prevent the beans from ever getting soft. If you've already salted them, then you're out of luck this time. If you haven't gotten them up to a hard boil yet, I'd say you should do that, then simmer until they smell done.
posted by ourobouros at 4:42 AM on September 15, 2016

Just in case this is a factor, beans cooked with acid (tomato juice, etc) or sometimes even just salt will not cook to tender, due to some chemical reaction I cannot describe. You can add these at the end of cooking, of course.
posted by Riverine at 6:22 AM on September 15, 2016 beans just take longer. (I make a lot of 5-bean chili and have to cook the black beans separate from the other 4 otherwise I end up with hard black beans in other-bean-mush)
Do not salt the water or add anything acidic. Change the water once or twice while cooking and drain and rinse thoroughly when they're done (the water they cook in gets really...metallic tasting...this is true of a lot of beans.)
posted by sexyrobot at 8:29 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You didn't salt them did you? Beans will not get tender if you salt them bc the salt prevents them from absorbing the cooking liquid apparently. You could cook them forever and they'd never soften.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:09 PM on September 15, 2016

That's actually a myth
posted by JPD at 6:49 PM on September 15, 2016

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