Can these beans be canned?

Michigan State University (MSU) researchers and the industry gathered at MSU's Crops Research Lab on Jan. 13 to evaluate both improved and standard bean varieties for canning.

Michigan State University (MSU) researchers, members of the U.S. Dry Bean Council, the Michigan Bean Commission, local farmers, elevator managers and several representatives of the bean canning industry gathered at MSU’s Crops Research Lab on Jan. 13, to evaluate both improved and standard bean varieties for canning.

The varieties being tested were canned in the Food Science pilot plant in December 2013—and need to be in the can for a full month prior to being evaluated so the contents can stabilize. The cans are then opened and their contents evaluated for size, color, shape and intactness.

Bean lines deemed viable for canning hold their color and do not break apart in the can. Those deemed less viable either faded in color, broke into pieces or both. Among black beans, for example, post-canning colors ranged from deep black (ideal) to brown and even purple; brown and purple coloring indicate that the bean color is too water soluble—and not a good canning product. Those beans that do not hold their color well will not be advanced, since their lack of suitability for canning reduces their appeal to consumers and, hence, canning companies.

Bush’s Best, Goya, Morgan Foods, and Faribault Foods are among the companies that attended MSU’s canning demonstration. Representatives looked at seven tables of more than 300 bean varieties, including Navy, Black, Red, Pink, Pinto, and Red and White Kidney beans. Representatives from these companies will meet with researchers and other representatives of the bean industry to determine which varieties they prefer for canning.

Among the many varieties that MSU offered for evaluation, B10244, a black bean, was approved for release by the Bean Commodity committee in MSU’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. This variety was praised by a number of company representatives at the demonstration for its excellent color and broth. Official approval requires that it pass another committee’s evaluation; the final decision to release then lies with Doug Buhler, director of AgBioResearch and senior associate dean for research for CANR and Richard W. Chylla executive director, MSU Technologies.

Those beans that do not meet canning quality are not further developed for production; they are perfectly healthy—just not viable in the canning market. These beans, however, do not go to waste. Annually, MSU’s bean breeding lab donates 6,000 to 8, 000 pounds of beans whose lines will not be further developed to a Lansing food bank, ensuring that MSU’s land grant mission of improving the lives of the nation’s populace continues.

The dry bean breeding and genetics program at MSU is focused on the development of high yielding, disease and stress resistant cultivars with upright architecture and improved canning quality in ten commercial seed classes for production in Michigan. Every year, this program improves the yield and quality of bean lines both nationally and internationally, helping ensure the health of the world’s populations.

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