International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

About Heirloom Dry Beans with a Recipe

Heirloom dried beans

Today I planted one of my easiest/hardest gardens, the Heirloom Dry Bean Garden. It's one of the easiest because once you get them planted and — with a little weed cultivation later on — you don't have to do a darn thing to them until you harvest them. Which is the hardest.

You just let the beans grow until they die, and then let them dry on the plant. Harvesting is the hardest because after picking them by hand, you have to do the time-consuming shelling of the beans from the pod, once again by hand and usually on the back deck on a beautiful fall day. Then you do your sorting, cleaning, washing, drying, and packaging. Why do I do all the work? Because you can't find many of these varieties in your local grocery store.

This year I planted the following dry bean varieties:

  • Vermont Cranberry: This bright colored red and white bean is an heirloom from the 1700s in New England.
  • Jacob's Cattle: It's a big white bean of unknown origin with maroon splashes. It does a great job of soaking up flavors in baked bean recipes.
  • Soldier: This bean is another New England heirloom that is white with a dark maroon “soldier” on the eye. Hearsay is that it was a bean used during the Civil War.
  • Great Northern: This heirloom comes from the Mandan Indians of the Dakotas. This is bean that you can find at your local grocery, but did you know it was an heirloom?
  • Vermont Appaloosa: Okay, it's not an heirloom, but sometimes I like to show off a unique bean to my friends. And this bean has patches of white, purple, and brown with many variations. It is said to resemble the rump of an Appaloosa pony.
  • Red Mexican: This is an 1855 California heirloom bean, and you can guess what recipes are used with it.

Last year I planted pinto, black turtle, brown Dutch, peregion, kidney, and Great Northern beans. While some varieties are staples, it's always fun to plant something different every year. And there's usually an interesting story behind every bean.

Since bean recipes are as numerous as black turtle beans in a pod, I'm going to give you only one recipe.

Ham and Bean Soup

First I must explain that I am a little unconventional, as all chefs will tell you to soak your beans overnight. I don't, for three reasons: I'm lazy, it just dirties another pan and it's not necessary when you use a slow cooker.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • Dry beans -- 2 cups
  • Small onion, diced -- 1
  • Carrots, diced -- 1 cup
  • Leftover ham bone with ham scraps - 1
  • Brown sugar -- 1 heaping tablespoon
  • Dried parsley -- 1 heaping tablespoon
  • Bay leaves -- 2
  • Salt -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Pepper -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Water -- 8 cups
  1. Simply put everything in the slow cooker and cook on medium all day.
  2. Okay, I usually add the ham scraps and carrots at noon.

See ya! — Farmer Dan