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bean

Introduction

bean, name applied to the seeds of leguminous trees and shrubs and to various leguminous plants of the family Leguminosae (pulse family) with edible seeds or seed pods (legumes). The genera and species encompassed by the term bean are many and variable. The broad beans ( Vicia faba, of the vetch genus), the soybean types ( Glycine max ), and a few lesser species were the only beans known to the Old World before the discovery of America, by which time the indigenous peoples had already developed most of the bean types still used today, e.g., the lima beans, kidney beans, string beans, shell beans, and pea beans. All these are species and varieties of Phaseolus, the "true" bean genus; the hereditary history of most is unknown, and hence the taxonomic distinctions are often still uncertain. The plants are easily cultivated but susceptible to several diseases, e.g., rusts, blights, wilts, and bean anthracnose (a fungus).

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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