Saturday, August 16, 2008

Farm Bulletin: The Meaning of Beans, Pt. 2

In Part 1, Anthony informed us about the difference between Fabaceae, Vicia, Vigna and Phaseolus. Part 2 gives us the skinny on shell, wax and bush beans, plus a long-kept secret recipe for dried favas.

Shell or dry beans. These are beans grown for their seeds, rather than the pod. That is, they are grown to be shelled. Typically, they are shelled when dry, and can be stored for several months.

Fresh shell beans are beans that are harvested when the seed has developed and perhaps nearing maturity, but not dry. Also called "shelly beans" in some regions. Typically, green bean varieties do not make good fresh shell beans, and visa versa. Flageolet, cranberry and cannellini are examples of good fresh shell varieties. They have a tough, tasteless pod and would not be welcome as green beans. All three are acceptable as dry beans, though we prefer them fresh shells. There is also a middle point in the drying referred to as "demi-sec."

Wax beans. Yellow snap or string beans. The yellow color is similar to bee's wax, hence the name.

Bush bean. As the name suggests, it is a bean variety that has a bushy habit. They produce beans in a shorter time than pole beans, and the beans tend to be ready about the same time. The beans that are bush beans include: garden beans (snap, wax and string, fresh shell and dry, green and wax) and bush limas. The tepary beans do not climb, per se, but have a viney habit, sprawling across the ground. This shades the soil around the plant.

The primary virtue of bush beans is that they can be harvested by machine. The machine is called a "Pixall Super Jack." Modern bush snap beans have been bred using a toughness gene that allows them to be stripped off the vine and then spewed into a big trailer where they are piled eight feet deep. A pretty impressive feat in endurance, but not necessarily a culinary virtue. We have found that even the best of the bush beans cannot hold a candle to the best of the pole beans, either in terms of flavor, or tenderness and texture. We wait patiently for the pole beans to mature.

Ful Medamas

Linda Colwell kindly gave us her now-legendary interpretation.

1 lb. favas, soaked in water for three days (refrigerated), changing water twice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 med. onion, chopped
2 tsp. turmeric
2 cardamom pods
1 dried Aci Sivri pepper, broken (or any semi hot dried pepper)
1/2 preserved lemon*
2 c. fresh chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 c. pitted mixed green and black olives, chopped
1 c. chopped cilantro
Water or chicken broth to simmer favas

Once the favas have soaked, heat the olive oil in a deep pot. Sauté the garlic and onion with a pinch of salt. Add the turmeric, cardamom pods and Aci Sivri peppers to cook for 10 minutes slowly. Add the chopped preserved lemon, chopped tomatoes and the favas. Cook 5-8 minutes to begin simmer, add broth or water. Simmer favas over low heat and gently until favas are tender. They should be cooked in the middle but not falling apart. Finish with a seasoning of salt, stir in the olives, and chopped cilantro.

* For a fast version of preserved lemon: Cut a lemon in half cross wise and slit the sides to the end of the fruit. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and place in freezer over night. Prior to using, thaw lemon, rinse off salt and chop.

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