9 Heirloom Beans for Soup Bean Survival
Dried beans are one of the foremost ingredients in a well-stocked pantry. For emergency survival food that is healthy and delicious, stock up on these nine American heirloom bean varieties.
Insurance for Hard Times
As the unemployment rate hovers at 8 percent and the economy drags, Americans are getting punched in the pocketbook from every direction. Grocery prices continue to rise, and some people are going into debt just to keep food on the table.
A well-stocked pantry can help you weather the financial crunch that results from a job layoff or bad economy. Think of your pantry as food insurance for hard times, and start building your stockpile today.
According to Off The Grid News, no pantry should be without certain emergency items: kosher or sea salt, olive and coconut oil, honey, vinegar, black peppercorns, garlic, chicken stock or broth, fresh canned fruits and vegetables (especially tomatoes), pasta, rice and dried beans.
The last item, dried beans, is probably the foremost item in a well-stocked pantry. High in protein, fiber and other vital nutrients, beans are just as hearty as meat in cooked dishes. However, they cost much less than meat and they store very well.
Emergency Survival Food
Dried beans are a good food staple for many reasons. Beans taste great served alone or cooked in soups, stews or chili. They are budget-stretchers that cost less than other foods. Beans are nutrition powerhouses packed with protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Their satiating power provides a feeling of fullness, which is important during lean or hungry times.
With more than 15,000 bean varieties in the world today, you can find a flavor and texture to suit any taste. Unfortunately, most varieties never make it to the grocery store shelves. Those that do are usually commercial varieties. While commercial beans are easy to grow, package, ship and store, they are usually older beans with little flavor.
Heirloom beans, those that were commonly grown during earlier periods in history, are the best-tasting dried beans available today. Heirlooms are sustainable, organic, open-pollinated plants that are not treated with harmful chemicals.
Fresh-picked heirloom beans require less soaking and cooking time than other dried beans. Because they are also seeds, you can plant them and enjoy their flavorful versatility for years to come.
Heirloom beans are grown around the world, including the United States. They are nearly impossible to find in your local supermarket, and gourmet restaurants are usually the first in line for these varieties. Fortunately, you can order heirloom beans online and grow them yourself.
The following nine heirloom bean varieties are grown in the Americas, from Canada to Peru and various places in-between. Stock your pantry now to enjoy delicious, healthy food in the coming months, no matter how the economy paints your picture.
1. Black Valentine Bean
The Black Valentine bean is a classic heirloom variety that is popular among gardeners and home growers. The rich, nutty flavor of these beans makes them popular with cooks too, who use them in everything from soups and stews to brownies and cupcakes.
Black Valentine beans are stringless, bush-type beans that are edible as fresh snap beans or dried beans. Their versatility makes them suitable for almost any recipe or cooking style.
2. Christmas Lima Bean
Christmas Lima beans are different from the little green lima beans you ate as a child. Originally cultivated in Peru, the Christmas Lima gets its name from a traditional Italian holiday stew. Legend says the Pope enjoys eating these beans with his Christmas meal.
Christmas Lima beans have distinctive burgundy markings that remain even after cooking. The beans make a bold statement with their rich "chestnut" flavor and "baked potato" texture. Manganese gives these beans their strong antioxidant properties, and they are also a good source of iron and fiber.
Cooks use Christma Lima beans in soups or side dishes. Hardy and heat-tolerant, they are great for home gardeners, too.
3. Eye of the Goat Bean
Eye Of The Goat beans are small beans in the cowpea family. They are related to black-eyed peas, a popular item in traditional southern menus and New Year's dishes.
The little grey bean with a dark stripe is true to its name; it does resemble a goat's eye. It packs a lot of flavor too. In fact, ham hocks and soup bones are unnecessary when these beans are cooked.
Unlike many dried beans, Eye of the Goat beans retain their sweet flavor and rich color throughout the cooking process. Served hot or cold, they are ideal for just about anything: soups, stews, chili, salads or side dishes.
4. Green Flageolet Bean
The Green Flageolet heirloom variety is the "caviar of beans." Unless you shop gourmet food stores or specialty catalogs, you may never see them. But they are excellent staples for your food pantry.
While Green Flageolet beans have a delicate, creamy flavor, they are hardy beans that stand up well during cooking. They are delicious in soups, stews and even cold salads.
The Green Flageolet name comes from the bean's ability to retain chlorophyll longer than other beans. Not only do they add color to your meals, but they provide many important nutrients and powerful antioxidants.
5. Hutterite Soup Bean
Despite a rather dull appearance, the Hutterite Soup bean may be the best heirloom variety for soups. These beans absorb water easily and cook quickly, and they are nearly impossible to ruin. Their creamy, buttery flavor makes them a favorite among modern cooks.
Like the Mennonites and Amish, the Hutterites can trace their roots to the Reformation. Fleeing religious persecution in Austria, the Hutterites moved to the American Midwest, where they cultivated this bean and became famous for their soups.
Hutterite Soup beans make great mashed baby food. Cooks can substitute them for rice in some dishes. They are also good in salads or with vegetables and pasta.
6. Jacob's Cattle Bean
Jacob's Cattle bean is another popular variety, but its origin remains a mystery. Some historians believe the bean originated on Prince Edward Island. Others claim it was a gift from the Passamaquoddy Indians to American colonists in Maine. Some say that early German settlers brought the bean to the United States.
However it came to be, this versatile heirloom bean is a good choice for the pantry and the garden. The plump, red-and-white speckled bean is known for retaining its shape after cooking. Its full, rich flavor resembles that of new potatoes.
Popular as a baked bean, Jacob's Cattle bean may be mashed or refried for Mexican dishes. At 100 calories per serving, it's a healthy and filling bean choice.
7. Jacob's Cattle Gold Bean
Jacob's Cattle Gold bean is a stabilized cross between Jacob's Cattle and Paint beans. This popular heirloom variety has markings that are similar to Jacob's Cattle, but the red-and-white speckled pattern is replaced with a unique gold-and-white pattern.
Like Jacob's Cattle, Jacob's Cattle Gold beans hold their shape during cooking. They retain their unique flavor identity too. The eye-catching bean is perfect for soups, stews or chili. Some cooks serve this variety as refried beans.
8. Runner Cannellini Bean
The Runner Cannellini bean is one of the world's most popular heirloom varieties. It is a hallmark of Italian and European cuisine. Initially cultivated in Argentina, Runner Cannellini beans are now grown across the globe.
Runner Cannellini beans triple in size after cooking. Their earthy, buttery flavor and creamy texture make them a good substitute for cooked or mashed potatoes. They are easy to prepare in a slow cooker, and many cooks puree them for bean dips and spreads. Known for its abundant production, this bean variety is a good one for home gardeners.
9. Snow Cap Bean
Snow Cap beans are beautiful heirloom beans that many cooks enjoy showing off in glass containers. Some growers describe their striking appearance as "cranberries dipped in white chocolate."
Partly white and partly speckled, dried Snow Cap beans are a good pantry staple for hearty winter soups, thick chowders and chili. The soft, silky texture is similar to that of potatoes, and Snow Caps make rich and filling dishes.
What is your favorite dried bean variety? Leave a comment below and join the discussion. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.
- Elton, Cathy. (September 14, 2011) "Heirloom Beans: A Taste of Yesterday, Today." One Green Planet. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Off the Grid Radio. (October 14, 2011) "Food Insurance for Tough Times." Off The Grid News. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
- Solutions from Science. (n.d.) "The World's Healthiest Storable Survival Food." Soup Bean Survival. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- USDA. (March 26, 2009) "Dry Beans: Background." United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Wikipedia contributors. (January 7, 2012). "Heirloom Plants." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
© 2012 Annette R. Smith