About the Bean

The Deep Forest Foundation took the symbol of the bean as a vital element that is shared among people around the world.

Bean is at the same time the name of a plant and of its seed.

It is a life that is intimately entangled with the human beings and with the agrodiversity of the globe.

In general, beans exist in different forms and ways of life, they are cultivated in multiple ways and species, with many varieties known world-wide that are propagated by indigenous and traditional farmers in all the five continents. We can say that beans make up the biocultural fabric of the various agroecosystems.

Beans are among the oldest cultivated plant, tracing back to the earliest records of human history.

Archaeological discoveries, from approximately 10,000 BC [1] , indicate that the cultivated grain had its origin in Mesoamerica [2] , and later was taken to Mexican regions, where it was worshiped as a symbol of life.

The Navajo Indians, who lived in what is today the United States, considered it a sacred plant and other indigenous tribes in North America considered beans to be one of the three “brothers” responsible for their diet: beans, maize and pumpkin. For the Mbyá-Guarani in South America, the small bean (Kumandambyá) originated from the grave of a boy who died with a lot of wounds and it was the first food created by the mythical ancestor for them to eat. 

But there are also records showing that other bean species were cultivated in biblical times, in the ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire [3] , where beans were used to vote. In the English and French royal courts, beans were part of the warriors’ diet in battles so the great expeditions helped to spread beans to the most remote regions of the planet. 

In Japan beans are a symbol of protection and exorcism, casting out demons and keeping evil at bay. Before spring, on the night of the 3 rd of February, the Japanese spread beans around the house (Mamemaki) with the purpose of expelling demons and evil spirits from their homes. Buddhists, in pursuit of an ideal diet without meat, found in beans a great ally to maintain a healthy diet. In Brazil we find the popular saying “It is beans that brace the house”, which reflects the importance of beans in the sustenance and protection of the family.

1. GEPTS, P.; DEBOUCK, D.G. Origin, domestication, and evolution of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). In: SCHOONHOVEN, A. van; VOYSEST, O. (Ed.). Common beans: research for crop improvement. Cali: CIAT, 1991. p.7-53.

2. Mesoamerican origin of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is revealed by sequence data. Bitocchi E, Nanni L, Bellucci E, Rossi M, Giardini A, Zeuli PS, Logozzo G, Stougaard J, McClean P, Attene G, Papa R Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 3; 109(14):E788-96.

3. Singh AK, Bhatt BP (2012b). Faba bean: unique germplasm explored and identified. Hort. Flora Res. Spectrum 1(3):267-269.

For The Deep Forest Foundation this concept symbolizes a connection between giving back and receiving. As much as we give back of what we have, we will receive new precious gifts of what we lack, which is also why the symbol of our bean is golden.

Vision & Mission

The cultivation of beans today is important for food security but also to combat malnutrition, alleviate poverty, improve human health and improve the ecology of the land. It fixes nitrogen from the air, which decreases the need to supply this nutrient with chemical fertilizers and helps the soil and plants.

In addition, many species are used as soil cover and crop rotation, which have a positive impact on the environment.

Beans are part of people’s lives around the world, they are closely entangled. Living with beans brings the potential of expanding knowledge, as well as possibilities of food sovereignty, mythology, rituals and encounters.

This page was written by Katya Bakhirka and Dr. Marilena Campos.

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