March 27, 2009

Beans

We all know that beans are good for us.  Rich in protein (6-7 grams per half-cup serving), high in fiber (one half-cup serving gives you about 25% daily fiber) and inexpensive! Besides being nutritious, they are versatile.  You can boil them, bake them, fry them; put them in soups, stews, chili and salads; serve them with meat or have a vegetarian dish!

Rancho Gordo is a company that sells heirloom beans.  I’ve heard of heirloom beans, heirloom tomatoes, heirloom seeds… but really, what does that mean?  As it turns out, an heirloom is tough to define.  Some say it must have been passed down through the generations and that a particular variety must be grown for at least 50 years before it can be called heirloom.

What is constant in what is deemed heirloom is that it is “non-hybrid”… they are pure and aren’t a mixture of two varieties.  To be called an heirloom, the plants must be open-pollinated, which means the seeds were pollinated by wind or insect rather than by humans.

Rancho Gordo is a company in Napa, California that grows heirloom beans.  I ordered some because I’ve read other bloggers rave about them and we've been eating lots of soups and stews this winter.  

I guess you could say I wanted on the bean wagon!  


I ordered the Yellow Indian Woman beans just because I liked the name and decided to try those first.

I've been trying to cook smaller portions of food so we don't have as many leftovers to contend with, so after soaking a half-pound of beans overnight, I sauteed some green bell pepper, onions and garlic in olive oil.  I added the drained beans, a smoked ham hock and covered it all with water.

I brought it to a boil then simmered it for about 4 hours.  I removed the ham hock and took the meat out of it.  You don't get a lot of meat from a ham hock, but what you do get is delicious!  I added just the meat back to the beans and simmered for another half-hour.

These beans are beautiful in the package and they're beautiful when you plate them.  I squashed a few beans while I was stirring them, but the majority were whole and plump and full of goodness.

I think there's a big difference between Rancho Gordo beans and the generic pinto bean you find on the grocery store shelf.  I can't wait to try the others and look for some heirloom seeds for our vegetable garden this summer!

17 comments:

  1. That sounds delicious ..I love all kinds of beans. I always love your choice of recipes Karen!! I loveyour new look here too... I'll have to grab a button:)

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  2. Karen, you always have such nice recipes. Thanks for sharing them with us.

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  3. Bean, beans good for your heart...and your taste buds and your tummy! Your soup looks delicious and flavorful. I've heard of these beans before, love the Yellow Indian Woman ones!!

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  4. Bean, beans good for your heart...and your taste buds and your tummy! Your soup looks delicious and flavorful. I've heard of these beans before, love the Yellow Indian Woman ones!!

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  5. I've never really been a bean fan, something about the texture doesn't do it for me. I need to try them more now that my palate has been changing, plus I bet fancy pants beans would be even better!

    I've never used ham hock either, I'll have to look into that.

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  6. I love rancho gordo beans, they have good popcorn too! I had never made popcorn on the stovetop before until recently when I bought their red popcorn kernels.

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  7. Yay beans! In a "Weeknight Kitchen" newsletter that I received back in January, Lynne Rosetta Kasper wrote this:

    Ever heard that refrain, "...the Age of Aquarius...?" Well, welcome to the Age of the Bean. The bean is the new steak. No longer is the legume the standard bearer of counter culture; the bean is the new Vera Wang and Ferrari. People now eat their filet mignon huddled in the dark behind shuttered windows while we bean lovers have finally found our place in the sun.

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  8. Hi Karen -- we're big lovers of beans too! I'm happy to read you are so pleased with your oder.. I like the sound of Yellow Woman, so it looks like I'll be doing more shopping. :)Your beans look delicious!

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  9. I truly love good beans. My Dad used to cook huge pots of Boston Baked Beans, and they were the best. Made the canned varieties seem like some sort of dog food in comparison. I miss those beans, terribly.

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  10. Great recipe with beans! Sounds delicious! I will have to look Rancho Gordo beans.

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  11. I love the heirloom info. I love beans and I've been using them a lot more recently. This looks wonderful and delicious! Perfect for the rainy weather we are having. Or any time for that matter! :)

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  12. I'm making up a grocery list in a bit and I think I'll add beans :)

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  13. These look wonderful! I love haveing beans for a meal and these would be something different.Great pictures, too!

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  14. I never think to cook with beans but they are so healthy, this sounds pretty simple even for me, cool! And thanks for the heirloom lesson, good info!

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  15. I love Rancho Gordo! They really do taste different and so delicious. And thanks to Sara's remark up there, I'll have to get some popcorn from them too. They also have great New Mexican chile powder and Mexican oregano. Yum.

    Glad to see yet another new fan. I'll have to give that variety a shot!

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  16. A post after my own heart! We're big bean fans although we really need to expand the repertoire. Rancho Gordo sounds like a great place to start! When I make bean dishes, the meat is primarily for flavor so I never use a lot so the amount yield by the ham hock sounds perfect.

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