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When we eat beans or peas, we are actually eating seeds.
When we eat green beans or snow peas, we are eating the seeds
and the pods. We are going to take a closer look at lima

Black-eyed peas are more easily available in many areas, and
can be purchased in the grocery stores still in the pods.

Carefully open the pods at the bottom side of the pods, where
the beans are not attached. If you tear along the seam, then
you can spread open the pod and see the beans still hooked
onto the pod at the top seam. Take the beans off the pod,
and look at the place where it was hooked to the pod. That
rough place is called the "seed scar." Some other kinds of
seeds are hooked onto their pods, because they actually grew
from the pods, while other kinds of seeds just lie there, in
the part of the flower where they developed. The seeds that
are lying inside their flowers or the cups that form when the
flowers dry and drop off do not have seed scars.

Put some of the bean seeds into a small bowl of warm water.
Since there is always some air inside the seeds, you will see
air bubbles coming out through a tiny hole near the seed
scar. This hole is called the "micropyle" (pronounced "my-
crow-pile"). That is the place where water can go inside the
seed so it can begin to grow after it has been planted in the
soil. Most seeds of this type are large, dry, and hard, and
it isn't easy for them to start growing when they are just
placed into the soil. It is best to soak them in a bowl of
water overnight before planting them.

The beans that we eat are bought in a sack, and are called
"dried beans." They have to be soaked overnight in order to
cook properly. If they are cooked without being soaked, they
don't swell as much, and sometimes are not as soft as the
ones that have been soaked.

We're going to leave the seeds in the water for a few hours
and watch them. As more water goes inside the seed through
the micropyle, the seeds will swell. They will stop swelling
when they have soaked up all the water they can hold. This
takes about three hours, if you are using lima beans. (If
you leave the beans in water too long, like several days, the
seeds will rot and mold will grow on them.)

Look at the differences between the beans that have been
soaked for three hours and the beans that have not been
soaked. Sometimes the color fades. There are other
differences, too. If you have a scale, you could weigh 10
beans that have not been soaked, write down the weight, and
then weigh 10 beans that have been soaked. The soaked beans
will weigh more, because they absorbed some water. Sometimes
the skin on beans gets all wrinkly after soaking, but the dry
beans are smooth. When beans are fully cooked, their skins
burst. You can put some of them into a spoon and blow on
them, and see their skins flutter in the draft you made by
blowing on them.

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