From their prominent place in every bowl of chili you’ll ever eat to being featured in Latin, Indian, and Creole cuisine, red kidney beans are a staple in diets around the world.
But being a diet staple doesn’t imply simplicity. There are numerous types of these beans, and as you read on, you’ll discover some of that diversity.
First, a Kidney Bean PSA!
Before we go any further, though, a word of caution: Cooking dried kidney beans can save money, but improperly prepared dried beans can lead to food poisoning. That’s due to high levels of phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), a problematic protein compound.
For safety, dried kidney beans should be soaked in water for at least five hours. After that, boil the beans in a fresh pot of water for at least 30 minutes.
Finally, never use a slow cooker for recipes containing initially dried beans, because it won’t get hot enough to destroy the PHA.
Now, let’s learn more about red kidney beans.
Light Red Kidney Beans
A familiar sight in chili, all kinds of kidney beans find their way into other dishes, from soups to stews to casseroles and even salads.
Light red kidney beans, obviously more lightly colored than the dark beans that define chili, also are more delicate than the darker bean.
Sure, they can appear in chili recipes, but light red kidney beans also find their way into a variety of cuisines. They are, for instance, particularly popular in dishes from the Caribbean, Spain, Portugal and even Italy.
As just one example, light red kidney beans can be used in recipes for the Italian dish pasta e fagioli, a vegetarian pasta and bean soup.
For even more on light red kidney beans, read our blog post on Light Red Kidney Beans.
If you’d like to try your hand at growing your own light red kidney beans, seeds are available online from True Leaf Market. The good news about cultivating these beans is that they will grow almost anywhere and produce a good crop.
Dark Red Kidney Beans
Arguably the utilitarian star among red kidney beans, there are a host of recipes, well beyond chili, that call for the hearty presence of dark red kidney beans.
Along with cut green beans and garbanzo beans, dark red kidney beans are one of the trio of stars in three bean salad, a dinnertime favorite in countless households.
In a similar combination, finely diced dark red kidney beans can join corn, onion and a variety of peppers in a dish called corn and bean confetti salad.
And, dark red kidney beans also are a centerpiece in sausage and beans, a dish with smoked sausage and chunky salsa, all simmered and served over rice.
To find out more about these beans, read our blog post on Dark Red Kidney Beans.
In terms of cultivation, dark red kidney beans are bush beans, with plants that will grow from 18 to 24 inches tall. Once you’ve placed them in your home garden, you can expect to be harvesting them in around three months.
In general, you should plant your seeds between four and six inches apart and one or two inches deep. Water the seeds as soon as you get them in the ground, and maintain a schedule of regular watering until the seeds sprout.
To try growing your own dark red kidney beans, your first step should be an online visit to True Leaf Market to order seeds.
Light Speckled Kidney Beans
Light speckled kidney beans are particularly prized among the family of red kidney beans because of their sweet taste, which has earned the variety the nickname “sugar bean.”
While its origins are traced to the Americas, specifically Mexico and Argentina, light speckled kidney beans are now cultivated elsewhere, and have spread as far as China.
Dietetically speaking, light speckled kidney beans are a great source of protein, carbohydrates, iron and Vitamin B-9. Vitamin B-9 is important in the formation of red blood cells and the overall healthy functioning of human cells.
As a result of their high nutritional value, light speckled kidney beans are used regularly in meals served in schools, hospitals and other institutional settings.
If you’d like to learn more about these beans, check out our blog post on Light Speckled Kidney Beans.
For the home gardener, it may be somewhat difficult to find seeds for growing light speckled kidney beans — fortunately, we found them on Amazon. But if you are interested in tracking down some seeds, you might want to get the Gloria variety for its resistance to bean rust and bacterial infestation.
Red Speckled Kidney Beans
Like its cousin the light speckled kidney bean, the red speckled kidney bean is also referred to as a “sugar bean” due to its sweet taste.
And also like its cousin, the red speckled kidney bean has some interesting dietetic characteristics. Perhaps most importantly, the red speckled kidney bean’s high iron and zinc content appears to play a role in reproductive health.
Those high levels of iron and zinc can reportedly be beneficial in addressing anemia, a deficiency of healthy red blood cells, in pregnant women.
More broadly, the red speckled kidney bean is an important source of high-soluble dietary fiber.
Soluble fiber has been shown to lower blood cholesterol, which can combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque. Plaque, in turn, can narrow or block arteries transporting oxygenated blood to the heart.
Soluble fiber can also reduce the risk of diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and even strokes.
For more on this bean, visit our blog post to read all about Red Speckled Kidney Beans.
In terms of general guidelines for growing red speckled kidney beans, along with other types of red kidney beans, note that they won’t necessarily grow that well in the extreme northern areas of the United States, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest.
To grow red speckled kidney beans, as with other varieties, you should place seeds directly into the soil after the last frost in your location.
Place your seeds in full sun, in well-drained soil. You should see your bean seedlings emerging from the ground in about two weeks.
To try your hand at adding red speckled kidney beans to your home garden, you can order seeds online from Amazon.
So Many Ways to Enjoy Red Kidney Beans!
We hope this post has been an informative introduction to some varieties of red kidney beans, and we also hope that it has inspired you to try growing one or more of them at home.
For more on beans, visit our Beans page for more blog posts.