Briefs: Writer Discovers Beans about Legumes

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 5, 2008 | Go to article overview

Briefs: Writer Discovers Beans about Legumes


Historian Ken Albala spent more than a year eating a different variety of beans every day as research for his recent book, "Beans: A History" (Berg Publishers, $24.95). Here he shares five things you might not have known about them.

Peanuts aren't the only legume in disguise. Licorice, tamarind, fenugreek, jicama and carob also belong to the bean family.

When the ancient Romans shipped an obelisk across the Mediterranean from Egypt, they packed it in lentils.

The bright yellow zolfino bean from Tuscany has become so sought after that it can cost $20 a pound. The humble navy bean, which is the same species, costs about 69 cents per pound.

Despite the name, coffee is not a bean, and on the bush they are called cherries.

The botanical name for the "winged bean" is Psophocarpus tetragonolobus, which means four-sided noisy fruit. But it's not a scatological reference. The pods apparently "pop" when they open.

Scandal involves 'impossible' chef

After rising to culinary stardom preparing impossible meals on his Food Network series, Robert Irvine has met an obstacle his kitchen prowess couldn't overcome -- an embellished resume. The star of "Dinner: Impossible" has acknowledged fabricating some of the more fantastic parts of his resume, including having cooked for Britain's Royal Family and various U.S. presidents.

Following the revelations, the network announced it would not renew Irvine's contract, though it would air the remaining episodes of the current season, the series' fourth. "I was wrong to exaggerate in statements related to my experiences in the White House and the Royal Family," Irvine said in a written statement. "I am truly sorry for misleading people and misstating the facts."

The Food Network said it might revisit its decision at the end of this season but would begin searching for a new host for the series, which challenged Irvine to cook under arduous conditions. "We rely on the trust that our viewers have in the accuracy of the information we present, and Robert challenged that trust," the network said in a written release. Irvine, who is from England, first acknowledged the fabrications in a Feb. 17 story in the St. Petersburg Times.

Club to explore home-grown mushrooms

The first meeting for 2008 of the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club will be at 7 p.m. March 18 at Beechwood Nature Reserve in Dorseyville. The topic, "Mushroom Cultivation at Home," will be discussed by Mark Spear and Rebecca Miller, club members who work professionally on the commercial propagation of mushrooms, as well as club mycologist John Plischke III and club identifier Jim Tunney.

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