Yes, Massachusetts Really Does Have An Official State Bean

Massachusetts is an interesting state. From a birds-eye view, the shape of the coastal edge suggests a fist being brandished across the Atlantic, warning the British monarchy never to return. This is fitting as it's the state where the American Revolution started, according to the National Park Service. Massachusetts is home to many American firsts; the state hosted the first Thanksgiving, built the nation's first subway system, played the first game of basketball, and developed the country's first computer, built by MIT in 1928, per Visit MA. However, the state is also home to some oddities, a few of which have actually been discussed, voted on, and declared law by the state legislature.

According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state has a few declared symbols that are more than a little eccentric. Square dancing was declared the official folk dance of the Commonwealth in 1990. The corn muffin has been the official state muffin since 1986. There is a state glee club song (1997), a state polka song (1998), and four different categories of rocks declared important to the identity of the state. Like other states, Massachusetts has its share of food-related symbols. The state fish is cod, the state game bird is turkey, and the state dessert is Boston Cream Pie. However, the inclusion of an official state bean is something truly unique to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In the Navy ... you eat a lot of beans

The official state bean of Massachusetts was, in 1993, declared to be the Navy bean, per the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The bean is known to have originated in Peru thousands of years ago. It has been cultivated around the world and goes by many names, including alubias blanca or "white pea" to Spanish speakers (via Camellia Brand). The bean's association with the Navy came about during the 19th century as the U.S. Navy saw fit to stock ships with rations to feed sailors, owing to the fact that dried beans were cheap and have an exceptionally long shelf life.

The bean's significance for Massachusetts is that it was the original variety used for Boston Baked Beans, (via the Secretary of the Commonwealth). According to The Paul Revere House Museum, Boston Baked Beans are a food that stretches back to the early days of Massachusetts history. The recipe is a combination of Navy beans, salt-cured pork, ground mustard, and, most importantly, molasses

These plants are excellent sources of nutrition and store well, making them an indispensable part of the early New England diet. Baked beans, as a result, became a staple in New England kitchens (via New England Historical Society). And though variations exist throughout the region, there is no doubt that Boston Baked Beans are the most iconic.