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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1993;33(3):227-86.

Hard-to-cook phenomenon in common beans--a review.

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Departamento de Biotecnología y Bioquímica, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Irapuato, Gto., México.


Legumes are one of the world's most important sources of food supply, especially in developing countries, in terms of food energy as well as nutrients. Common beans are a good source of proteins, vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6) and certain minerals (Ca, Fe, Cu, Zn, P, K, and Mg). They are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and polyunsaturated free fatty acids (linoleic, linolenic). However, common beans have several undesirable attributes, such as long cooking times, being enzyme inhibitors, phytates, flatus factors, and phenolic compounds, having a "beany" flavor, and being lectins and allergens, which should be removed or eliminated for effective utilization. Grain quality of common beans is determined by factors such as acceptability by the consumer, soaking characteristics, cooking quality, and nutritive value. Acceptability characteristics include a wide variety of attributes, such as grain size, shape, color, appearance, stability under storage conditions, cooking properties, quality of the product obtained, and flavor. Storage of common beans under adverse conditions of high temperature and high humidity renders them susceptible to a hardening phenomenon, also known as the hard-to-cook (HTC) defect. Beans with this defect are characterized by extended cooking times for cotyledon softening, are less acceptable to the consumer, and are of lower nutritive value. Mechanisms involved in the HTC defect have not been elucidated satisfactorily. Attempts to provide a definitive explanation of this phenomenon have not been successful. The most important hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the cause of bean hardening are (1) lipid oxidation and/or polymerization, (2) formation of insoluble pectates, (3) lignification of middle lamella, and (4) multiple mechanisms. Most researchers have reported that the defect develops in the cotyledons. Recently, some authors have suggested that the seed coat plays a significant role in the process of common bean hardening. A better knowledge of cotyledon and seed coat microstructure may lead to a better understanding of the causes of seed hardness. In order to prevent the development of the HTC defect several procedures have been proposed: (1) appropriate storage, (2) controlled atmospheres, and (3) pretreatments. Probably, the most workable solution to the hardening phenomenon may be the development of materials less prone to HTC phenomenon. Decreasing cooking time, increasing nutritive value, and improving sensory properties of seeds with HTC defect would have great nutritional and economical impact.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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