I'd be lying if I said that the topic of this fortnight's article wasn't inspired by the ready crop of puns that suit anything bean-related. Bean a long time? The importance of beans in earnest? Lentil we meet again? Pun-tastic. However, at this time of year, when cash is still a bit tight after the excesses of the holidays and the waistbands of trousers are even tighter, beans, lentils and other pulses (the edible seeds of various members of the legume family) are essential ingredients. It's fortunate, then, that here in Tuscany they are an integral and long-standing part of the local cuisine.