My best wishes for a tranquil 2002. Now, that the rush of the holiday season
is over and winter has really arrived, it's a reflective time. Cold weather
and long, sunless days bring back longings for warm, sunny days. I hope
some items in this newsletter will help brighten this period. Winter is
also the time for deep flavored, long cooked dishes with scents that stimulate
the appetite and warm the body. Spring will come, but right now let's enjoy
the good things of winter.
Corti Brothers sells a number of beans which are staples for us but exotic
to some: Cannellini, Borlotti lingua di fuoco, Gigantes, Flageolets,
Cranberry. To this list we can now offer a selection
of more unusual beans, some new to us since they are new crosses, and others
new since they had been produced in very limited quantity.
RICE BEANS are a small bean, shaped like a grain of long grain rice, but about three to four times as wide. They look much like those licorice candies, sugar coated in different colors, called "Good and Plenty." There is a variety of bean which is not a Phaseolus bean, a New World bean, also called "Rice" bean, but this is a bean from the Old World, indigenous to northeastem India and southeast Asia, part of the Vigna family, like the adzuki, mung, Chinese long bean, and black eye "peas." These rice beans are now classified as Vigna umbellata rather than their previous name, Phaseolus calcaratus.
The RICE BEANS we can now offer are crosses made recently in Idaho, basically from a parent known as Dwarf White Rice. This cultivar is an old German variety with small seeds, already known in 1863. A recent crossing program has produced several different colored rice beans which are are quite pretty to look at, cook easily, are delicious, and unusual. In using them--their textures vary but slightly--color combination possibilities are numerous, and you are limited only by your imagination.
Our RICE beans come in several color variations: white, brown, green, spotted (called Falcon), and a camel color brown (called Mocassin). The green rice bean is the exception. Since it retains a good deal of green color from chlorophyll due to a persistent gene, much like flageolets, and not from the seed coat, its flavor is more "green" in character.
A parent in all of these crosses, the color differences are made through crossings, is still the white rice bean. This parent was found as a sport in a field of colored beans and propagated from a single plant. Our rice beans are firm in texture, not mealy, and when carefully cooked-- simmered, not boiled-- in a copious amount of water, they increase slightly in size, but still remain a small bean.
Their colors remain quite distinctive if cooked individually. Once cooked, then mixed, they produce attractive color combinations. If cooked together, part of their visual effect will be washed out. Due to their size, they will cook in about 30 to 45 minutes without previous soaking. Merely picked over, washed, started in cold water, and salted after becoming tender, rice beans are easily prepared.
Cooked like rice or with rice, our rice beans hold their shape, color, and lend a delicate, distinctive flavor to dishes. They reheat very well and once cooked, can be seasoned in innumerable ways. Served as an accompaniment to sausages, they are exceptionally good. Use your imagination to make salads. Served with our delicious As do Mar tuna as a novel Italian fagioli al tonno (bean and tuna salad), they are visually and flavorfully unique.
TEPARY BEANS, Phaseolus acutifolius, have been used as a food source in the Americas for more than five millenia. Remains of these beans dating to 5,000 B.C. have been found in the Tehuacan Valley in Mexico, and the Hopi Indians of northeastern Arizona have used them as a staple for over 1,200 years. TEPARY is a special bean that is very productive in arid climates. Its claim to fame is that it grows where practically nothing else will and thus has been the subsistence for peoples living in the desert areas of the United States southwest and the north west of Mexico, the so-called Aridoamerica. There are both domesticated and wild strains of this bean.
Our TEPARY is small, has a very pretty, speckled color, much like a sparrow egg, and often truncated in shape. They swell slightly in cooking, but remain a small bean, and have an excellent texture, not at all starchy. Traditional in Hopi and Pima Indian cooking and in the north of Mexico, they are delicious as frijoles de olla, the traditional soupy beans of Mexico and again, unusual as a side dish.
PERSIAN LIMAS we offer are red in color with black flecking. I am told that the original seed was brought back from China by Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe fame and the name "persian" was given solely to name it. This is a Phaseolus bean, Phaseolus lunatus, originally discovered in Central and South America. The small size of this lima distinguishes it from the other two forms of limas.Red is one of the rare color coats of lima beans which we normally see in pale green or white. While it is cooking, some of the red coat color leaches into the cooking water but the bean remains well colored. Its flavor is a pleasant lima bean taste, not grassy or starchy, but slightly sweet and delicious. Again, as color and flavor rule, once cooked, these limas could be added to practically anything.
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