Jelly beans are a type of confectionery that comes in many different (primarily fruit) flavors. They are small (the size of a red kidney bean or smaller) and generally have a hard candy shell and gummy interior. The confection is primarily made of sugar.
The earliest known appearance of the jelly bean was during the American Civil War when William Schrafft of Boston promoted sending the candy to soldiers in the Union Army. It was not until 1930 or so that jelly beans became an Easter candy, presumably from their resemblance to Easter eggs.
The basic ingredients of jelly beans include sugars, corn syrup, and starch. Relatively minor amounts of the emulsifying agent lecithin, anti-foaming agents, an edible wax such as beeswax, salt, and confectioner's glaze are also included. The ingredients that give each bean its character are also relatively small in proportion and may vary depending on the flavor.
Most jelly beans are sold as an assortment of around eight different flavours, most of them fruit based. Assortments of "spiced" jellybeans and gumdrops are also available, which include a similar number of spice and mint flavors. The colors of jelly beans are also more or less standardized; with each color having a fruit and a "spiced" flavor.
Some premium brands, such as Jelly Belly and The Jelly Bean Factory, are available in many different flavors, including berry, tropical fruit, soft drink, popcorn, and novelty ranges, in addition to the familiar fruit and spice flavors. While these are also sold as assortments, individual flavors can be individually purchased from distributors. A version of the "Every Flavor Beans" from the Harry Potter series was made commercially available, and included flavors described as earwax, dirt, pepper, and vomit.
There are other candy products which also have a hard candy shell and a gummy interior, such as Skittles. However, these are not marketed as jelly beans and are not typically referred to as such.
In United States slang in the 1910s and early 1920s a "Jelly bean" or "Jellybean" was a young man who made great efforts to dress very stylishly, presumably to attract women, but had little else to recommend him; similar to the older terms dandy and fop and the slightly later drugstore cowboy. However, the word was also used as a synonym for pimp. The term was memorialized in the song, "Jelly Bean (He's a Curbstone Cutie)", kept popular through the 1940s by Phil Harris. It was written by Jimmie Dupre, Sam Rosen, and Joe Verges and published in New Orleans in 1920 by Universal Music Publishers, Inc.
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