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9 Heirloom Beans for Soup Bean Survival

Updated on December 8, 2013

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.

The U.S. produces a variety of dried beans.
The U.S. produces a variety of dried beans. | Source

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.

Your Turn

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.

Reference Sources

© 2012 Annette R. Smith


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    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hello, AliciaC. So glad you stopped by! And I'm glad you've found some new bean types to sample, too. Enjoy the weekend!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for creating a great hub! I love eating the bean varieties that I can buy where I live, but you've introduced me to many new types. Beans are so nutritious, and are relatively inexpensive compared to meat, as you say. I'll be looking out for some of the beans that you've described.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thanks, Linda. I appreciate the support. How we all remember those childhood rhymes! Interestingly, many heirloom bean varieties contain less of the gas-causing sugars (carbs) than other beans. I can't wait to try some of these with my family.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Awesome! Beans have so many benefits, thank you for pointing some of them out Annette! Beans, beans they are good for your heart...the more you eat the more you fart!!! Couldn't help myself! Forgive me!!:)

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thanks, Hyphenbird. Some of the bean varieties were new to me, too, and we can't wait to try them at home!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Yum. We love beans and I agree they should be plentiful in every pantry. Some of the varieties you mention are new to me and I will look for them. Thanks so much for the great information.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      @LadyLyell, I appreciate the note and encouragement! My pleasure on the suggestions.

      @DonnaCosmato, Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing my list with your mother! I enjoyed learning more about the Hutterites, too.

      @Ahnoosh and @jonnycuddleberry, It's a pleasure to meet both of you! Thank you for visiting my hub and leaving your comments.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      This is a great list, Annette! We love Christmas Lima Beans and people always rave when I take them to potlucks.

      However, I had never heard of the Hutterite Soup Beans so I'm anxious to try them this year in the garden as I have an ongoing love and interest in the members of the Anabaptist religion like the Hutterites.

      Voted this up and shared the bean list with my mom to see what else she thinks we should plant:)

    • jonnycuddleberry profile image

      jonnycuddleberry 5 years ago

      This will come in handy for me, especially since i'm a college student. I am a big fan of beans as they last a long time and they are easy to cook.

    • Ahnoosh profile image

      Ahnoosh 5 years ago from Southern California

      Your hub was really interesting and i loved your layout! Voting up.

    • LadyLyell profile image

      LadyLyell 5 years ago from George, South Africa

      The world is in an alarming place when we talk of stocking up on food!

      My husband and I once did this back in 1994 when living overseas where a low key war seemed possible.

      Thanks for the suggestions!

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hi, Tammy. Thanks for dropping by!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      What a fabulous suggestion. Sadly, it is a great idea to stock our pantries.. The world is a scary place. Great hub design! Loved it!

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hi, RTalloni! My cousin shared the bean list with me, and I enjoyed researching the different varieties and expanding on the list. Thank you so much for reading this hub and sharing your comments. I appreciate the encouragement. Happy gardening! Happy cooking! Happy hubbing!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks very much for this overview on these unique beans just in time for spring plantings! :) I may be familiar with a few of them by different names, but for the most part I've not heard of the most of them and I'm looking forward to learning more about growing and using them.