During late winter and early spring, I have been featuring new and unfamiliar (to me) varieties of beans. Like those folks in central Italy, (the Tuscans are somewhat disparagingly called “bean eaters”), I love beans. One of my most fond childhood memories is of an immense pile of freshly picked shell beans on the kitchen table and helping my grandma Duncan prepare them for dinner.
Beans are a Superfood, high in protein, fiber and vitamins. Beans were also elmental for the development of civilization being one of the first domesticated crops. Canned beans can be good but for the best result in texture and flavor, you’ll want to prepare your own. At any rate, I learned a few things about beans this year that I want to share with you.
First, freshly harvested heirloom beans are best. (Check out Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo stellar website.) They require the least amount of soaking time so they produce the most nuanced flavors. If your beans require a day or more soaking time, the beans are likely very old and stale. Second, don’t discard the soaking solution. Instead, flavor it. I use a bay leaf, garlic, fresh rosemary and a small dose of salt. Then simmer the beans in that liquid to doneness. Third, the problem with flatulence almost disappears with regular bean eating, starting with small amounts. If you eat beans regularly, your body will learn how to digest them. Lastly, you owe it to yourself to find a good crusty slice of bread, lightly rub it with a clove of garlic, smash some marinated Royal Corona beans on top, drizzle it with your very best extra virgin olive oil and maybe a dusting of freshly cracked pepper. It is my new standard for “fast food.”