Because seeds contain much protein, beans are useful as a meat substitute and in different parts of the world are a characteristic item—often a staple—of the national fare. Baked beans, cooked for hours with pork or molasses or both, are a traditional New England dish. The Greeks and Romans used the broad bean for balloting—black seeds to signify opposition and white seeds agreement. This custom lingered in England in the election of the king and queen for Twelfth Night and other celebrations and was taken to the New World colony at Massachusetts Bay, where Indian beans were used.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.