Presenting the talented; versatile; misunderstood and all-round yummy treat! The bean.

So how come we're not gobbling it up?

Nutritionally, you can't lose with beans. Not only do they satisfy hunger because they are digested slowly, they also contain only 118 calories or fewer per 1/2-cup serving. They're a good source of protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. They also contain doses of vitamins B1 and B6 plus niacin and folic acid. Not only that, beans are a great source of fiber. p

But even if they weren't delightful and delicious, there's a great reason why people will love them once they get to know them. In addition to all the nutrition stuff, they're cheap.

There are a dozen major varieties of beans eaten in this country. And although they're diverse and unique, they can be confusing, especially to those who've known only the baked kind well.

So here's a guide to your dry bean line-up.

Baby limas: The dry form of the fresh green lima. Use in main dishes, soups or as a vegetable.

Blackeye: Called blackeye pea before drying, blackeye bean after. Use with pork or chicken.

Dark red kidney: Sold almost exclusively in canned form. Use in salads, casseroles and hearty soups.

Garbanzo: A nutty bean sometimes called "chickpea." Use in salads and appetizers.

Great northern: Larger than small white or pea bean. Use in soups and chowders and mixed with other varieties.

Large lima: sometimes called "butter bean." Use in casseroles, as a vegetable and with smoked meats and cheese.

Light red kidney: Use in any bean dish including soups, salads, snacks and main dishes.

Pink bean: Best known for its appearances in Mexican-American dishes and often featured in Western barbecues.

Pinto: Also know best for its appearances in Mexican-American dishes. Use in chili.

Red bean: A bright red pea bean. Use in salad or substitute for just about any other bean in a wide variety of dishes.

Small white: Especially popular for its appearances in baked beans, it works well in just about any casserole recipe.

Navy bean: Also popular for its participation in baked beans, it, too, works well in casserole and baked dish recipes.

As you can see, beans go well in lots of recipes. And they fit well in food situations you wouldn't think proper.

Make bean spread to serve on crackers or pita bread. Combine one 16-ounce can garbanzo or kidney beans, drained, in blender with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons minced parsley. Blend until smooth. Chili. (It's delicious.)

Refried beans, a Mexican-American favorite which is a perfect filling for tacos, enchiladas or tostadas, can be made with freshly cooked pinto, pink, red and kidney beans. Mash them and cook in a skillet with bacon drippings or butter.

And those are just two ideas from a script of millions.

With all this going for them, you'd think beans would be one of the most popular foods on the block. Not so, according to statistics.

Soaking seems to be the major problem. But it's so simple, it's hard to know why people let it bother them. Just listen.

The quick soak: To 1 pound of any dry bean add 6 to 8 cups hot water. Heat, let boil 2 minutes; cover and set aside for an hour before cooking.

To regular soak: To 1 pound dry beans add 6 cups cold water. Let stand overnight or for several hours in a cool place.

Overnight salt soak: To 1 pound beans add 6 cups cold water and 2 teaspoons salt. Let stand overnight or for several hours before cooking.

Although soaking beans isn't essential, it shortens the cooking time and helps some varieties hold their shape. Some cooks prefer to drain beans after soaking and cook in fresh salted water. Others feel that the soak water should not be discarded. But you can decide.

By now if you are not inspried, take a taste of these recipes. They'll make a bean believer out of you. CHILI BEAN SOUP (5 to 6 servings) 1 pound pink, red or pinto beans 6 to 8 cups boiling water 1 teaspoon garlic salt 1 teaspoon onion salt 1/4 teapoon each thyme and marjoram 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) beef or chicken broth 1 can stewed tomatoes 1 package (1 5/8 ounces) chili seasoning mix or 1 can (7 ounces) green chili salsa

Rinse, sort and soak beans. Drain and empty them into a large pot. Add boiling eater, garlic and onion salt, thyme and marjoram. Cover and simmer until beans are tender (2 1/2 to 3 hours). Don't let beans boil dry. Add hot water as needed. Spoon out 3 cups of the cooked beans to use another day in another way. Wash rest of beans with their liquid. Add remaining ingredients, plus 1 cup hot water. Heat at least 10 minutes to blend flavors. i CHEESY BEAN BAKE (5 to 6 servings) 3 cups cooked pinto, red or kidney beans 1 cup chopped onions 1/2 cup chopped green pepper 2 tablespoons oil 1 cup cooked rice 1 cup cottage cheese 3 cups grated Cheddar cheese

Cook beans as directed below. Drain. Saute onion and green pepper in oil until tender. Fold into beans along with remaining ingredients. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Note: Canned dry beans may be used in place of fresh-cooked dry beans.

To cook dry beans: Wash 1 pound or 2 cups dry beans. Soak overnight in 6 cups of water. Or use the quick-soak method; place beans and water in saucepan, bring to boil, cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Cook soaked beans 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Drain. SUNSHINE BEAN CASSEROLE (6 to 8 servings) 2 cups each drained cooked or canned red beans, large limas and garbanzos 1 pound ground beef 1 large onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared mustard 1/2 cup catsup 1 teaspoon cumin powder 1/4 cup red wine (or 1/4 cup water with 3 tablespoons vinegar Salt and pepper to taste

Put drained beans into a 2 1/2-quart casserole; mix lightly and set aside. In large skillet cook ground beef, onions and garlic until meat is lightly browned; stir in remaining ingredients. Add skillet mixture to beans in casserole; mix together. Cover and bake for about an hour at 325 degrees. Or simmer the mixture in an electric slow cooker on low for 3 to 4 hours.