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Local and seasonal food

Beans Means……

By 18th March 2021No Comments


Baked beans have their origin in Native American cooking and were adopted by English colonists in New England in the 17th Century.  The dish traditionally contained white beans which were parboiled and then baked at a low temperature.  Baked beans were originally sweetened with maple syrup but modified by colonists using molasses or brown sugar.  Nowadays, baked beans are not actually baked but cooked on the stove in a tomato based stew.

Those of us of a certain age will easily recall the rather catchy but sexist advertising jingle: “A million housewives every day pick up a tin of beans and say: ‘beans mean H….’” (you can guess the name of the brand).  Amazingly, that number is now a vast underestimate with over 2.5 million cans of beans sold in the UK every day!  That is a lot of beans and a heck of a lot of packaging: cans, wrapping paper, and often further paper or plastic wrapping with multi-packs.

However, do not despair.  Home made beans are incredibly easy to make for a fraction of the price with much reduced waste.  I have chosen to compare the price and waste generated between canned organic baked beans and homemade organic baked beans.

A 400g can of organic baked beans cost me £1.20 at a local shop.  However, I made 1850g (over 4 times as much) of organic baked beans using dried organic haricot beans and local organic vegetables.  My own concession to cans was a can of organic chopped tomatoes.  This dish would be even cheaper, less waste (and tastier) if you used your own home-grown tomatoes in season.  The total cost (including cooking fuel) for 1850g was £3.50.

The table below shows that homemade beans are a third cheaper and I would have had to buy at least 4 cans of baked beans to make the comparable amount of homemade….so less expensive and much less packaging waste.

Can of Organic Baked Beans (400g) Homemade Baked Beans


Cost per 100g 30p 20p
Packaging/waste Tin can with paper wrapper Tin can with paper wrapper

Half a tube of tomato puree

Peel from carrots and onions




400g dried haricot beans (soaked overnight)

50ml olive oil

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves

2 medium carrots (you can also use celery here)

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

100g tomato puree

100ml water

1 tsp paprika

I tbsp molasses or brown sugar

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Boil the soaked beans for about 40 minutes (or 8 minutes in a pressure cooker) until soft, but not mushy. Drain them and keep separate for now.
  2. Fry the finely chopped onion, garlic and carrot in the olive oil for 5 minutes.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients to the onion, garlic and carrot mix and stew on a low heat for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and put these ingredients into a blender to form a smooth sauce.
  5. Finally, empty the sauce into the beans, mix together with a spoon and heat for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Once your baked beans have cooled you can divide them into portions and put some in the freezer.




I am passionate about cooking using fresh, local ingredients, organic where possible. I'm happy to cook with foraged foods, too. I am keen to experiment with recipes from all over the world. Some favourites include - Swedish cardamom buns and South Indian curries.

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