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Black Bean Characteristics
Black beans are a member of the kidney bean (haricot bean) family. They are small and slightly square in shape, with white meat that has a hearty flavor under the dark skin. These beans are native to South America, and are especially popular in Mexican and Latin American cooking. When black beans are cooked, their shiny black skin gives a purplish tint to the other ingredients accompanying them.
Black beans are also called black turtle, Mexican, Frijoles Negros, Tampico beans, Venezuelan beans, or Spanish black beans. In Brazil, black beans are called Feijoada and are the national dish of Brazil. Do not confuse the Latin black bean with the Oriental black bean! The black beans from Asia are soybeans, which are generally fermented and preserved in salt. The Oriental black bean is also known as Chinese black beans or salty or salted black beans, they have a very strong, salty flavor and are generally soaked for a half hour or so in fresh water before being added to a dish.
Before cooking, be sure to pick through them, picking out any small pebbles, split and withered beans and any other foreign matter. [Beans from the Rockies and Pacific coast tend to have more adobe (bits of clay) and stones]. It is also helpful to cover the beans with cold water, let sit for 5 minutes and remove anything that floats. Repeat to be sure all dirt and foreign matter is removed. Drain.
Canned black beans are cooked and mildly spiced.