Where have you bean?! New high-protein crop could sprout up in UK

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Britain loves its beans – and a new variant developed by scientists may become the perfect crop to grow on our farms.

The so-called “millennial bean” made by researchers at the University of Warwick is a type of white haricot bean that is high in protein and capable of sprouting up in the UK.

Haricot beans are native to the Americas and until now have been difficult to grow here, meaning popular variants in UK supermarkets like baked beans rely on imported crops.

Image: Professor Eric Holub said home-grown beans could help satisfy the increasing popularity of plant-based diets

With both British and global shifts towards eating less meat, finding homegrown sources of protein is not only essential for people but also good for the planet.

The new white haricot bean has been developed at a crop centre in Wellesbourne.

Professor Eric Holub, who is leading the project, said: “British farmers are not large-scale producers of haricot beans because commercial varieties developed in other countries are poorly suited to our climate and light conditions.

“However, our eating habits are shifting in Britain towards a more plant-based or flexitarian diet.

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“British consumers will have an opportunity to improve our food system if commercial varieties of haricot beans can be developed successfully for British farmers.”

The millennial bean is officially called capulet and is part of a diverse array of haricots, with cross-breeding used to develop ranges with various colours and growing capacities in different environments.

Undated handout photo issued by the British Science Association of Professor Eric Holub, a plant genetics expert from Warwick's School of Life Sciences. A new white haricot bean variety inspired by Shakespeare could become the UK's next commercial plant-protein crop. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday September 11, 2019. The new millennial bean variety has been bred by researchers at the University of Warwick's Crop Centre in Wellesbourne. See PA story SCIENCE Beans. Photo credit should read: Unive

Image: The beans will go through consumer testing before they are grown en masse

Warwick researchers are now working with the public on consumer testing – if the bean is liked by the public and there is demand for it, British farmers will be able to grow them.

Professor Holub added: “We are a nation known for its love of beans, but in the form of a processed food – British baked beans. But this product is neither British, because the raw ingredients are imported, nor baked, because they are pressure cooked in a tin.

“Capulet may find its way into tins, however, our approach to selecting new haricot bean varieties for consumers is to improve convenience for cooking at home from a raw ingredient.”

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