If meat ever moves out of the center of the plate, heirloom beans are ready to fill the void. Economical, nutritious and often oh so pretty, heirloom beans today take center stage in vegetarian cuisine and are widely used as side dishes and garnishes on menus around the country.
Heirloom beans are nutritious, but not necessarily more nutritious than non-heirloom ones; Both are fiber- and protein-rich. The nutritional value depends on the type of bean. Even though heirloom beans cost two to three times more than everyday beans, they still are significantly less expensive than putting meat, poultry or fish on the table.
Cultivated around the globe for centuries, heirloom beans grow as nature created them, untouched by modern technology or horticultural tampering. They come in thousands of varieties and are used dried and fresh in many of the world’s cuisines. They’re especially popular throughout the Mediterranean region, but are also used in Asian and other international cuisines and in regional American dishes.
It’s important to preserve these heirloom vegetables, once they are gone, they’re gone forever.
Newcomers to the world of heirloom beans often look for perfectly formed straight beans. Heirloom beans are not always like that. They can be curled or misshapen and still be perfectly good. When customers learn their history and that they are special, they realize that the rest of our food and ingredients must be special, too.
Cooking dried beans
- For optimum results when cooking dried beans, follow these tips. Whenever possible, soak beans covered overnight at room temperature or in the cooler.
- Do not soak in boiling water. A slow penetration of water protects the beans’ skin.
- If you can’t soak beans overnight, add beans to boiling water, turn off heat and let stand 1 hour.
- Always discard soaking liquid and cook beans in fresh water.
- Avoid excess water, which can leach out color and cause colors to run together.
- Cook until desired tenderness. Time will vary by type of bean.
- Cook beans until slightly tender before adding salt, tomatoes, sugar or acids of any kind, which harden the seed coat and make it nonpermeable.