Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ingredient: Tepary Beans with Recipe for Tepary Bean and Vegetable Stew

The snow in our front yard is nearly gone, the ice in the pond has melted, and spring is quickening. After our difficult winter, I’m looking forward to seasonal change even more eagerly than usual.

Speaking of winter, the overwhelming support from the blogging community during my father’s long illness and ultimate death was much appreciated. It’s not easy to lose a parent, but the kindness and concern shown by so many helped. Thank you all so much.

Because I spent so much of the winter in Washington near my parents, I was able to see my sister regularly, to my great joy. Though we’re two years apart and have the closeness that comes from childhood bedroom-sharing, as adults we’ve always lived far away from each other. It was indescribably soul-satisfying to have her (and her husband and dogs) be part of daily life the last few months.

Shopping for food and cooking dinner with my sister brought new life to what too often are routine activities. Despite our years apart, we’ve developed similar cooking styles and work together smoothly and easily in the kitchen.

One of the projects we undertook was finding and cooking tepary beans for My Legume Love Affair Ninth Helping. Despite searching in numerous Seattle area stores, we were unable to find tepary beans and resorted to ordering them
online. When they arrived, we made Tepary Bean and Vegetable Stew and loved it. I’ll definitely be cooking with tepary beans again.

Tepary Beans

Tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) are a bush bean originating in the desert areas of Mexico and the American Southwest. They grow best in extreme heat and under very dry conditions. Tepary beans’ taproot is twice as long as common beans’ (Phaseolus vulgaris), which allows teparies to efficiently take advantage of even small amounts of soil moisture.

Nutritionally, tiny tepary beans (1/4” long, the size of large lentils) are higher in protein, iron, calcium, and fiber than most beans. Their nutritional benefits, sweet, nutty flavor, and relatively quick cooking time make teparies well worth searching out.

Jay Bost, in the
June 2006 Seeds of Change newsletter, wrote a fascinating article about tepary beans. His discussion of the growing conditions under which teparies thrive makes me interested in trying them in Greece, which has the necessary hot dry summers:

“Due to its native habitat in the Sonoran Desert, domesticated tepary beans … are considered by many to be the most drought-tolerant annual legume in the world. They are capable of producing a harvest of beans with a single rain in the harshest conditions; when irrigated, they produce higher yields only up to a certain point, after which excess moisture becomes a detriment and leads to overproduction of foliage and low bean production. In fact, it appears that moisture stress is necessary to trigger fruiting. Part of the tepary bean's secret to success in dry areas is to grow quickly when water is available. While pinto beans take 90 to 120 days to maturity, teparies take only 75 to 85. As water shortages become a reality in many parts of the U.S. and around the world, teparies will undoubtedly play an important role in dryland agriculture. In fact, tepary cultivation is now taking place in dry areas of Africa and is being revived in southern Arizona.”

Bost details teparies’ nutritional benefits:

“Part of the tepary bean's appeal, in addition to its drought tolerance, is its superior nutritional content. It has a higher protein content (23–30%) than common beans such as pinto, kidney, and navy, as well as higher levels of oil, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium. While higher in all of these desired nutrients, tepary beans are lower in polyunsaturated fat and in the anti-enzymatic compounds which make common beans hard to digest (Hamama and Bhardwaj 2002). … Tepary beans are proving to be an ideal food for people prone to diabetes or suffering from diabetes owing to the beans' high fiber level, which make them a "slow-release food"; that is, tepary beans' sugars are released slowly and steadily, rather than in a spike as in many high carbohydrate, low fiber foods common in our diets.”

Ark of Taste is a list of endangered food plants and animals that the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity seeks to protect and defend. Tepary Beans are now on the Ark of Taste list for the United States.

I can’t wait to start playing around in the kitchen with tepary beans, and hope to soon convince a local store to carry them!

Tepary Bean and Vegetable StewTepary Bean and Vegetable Stew
Serves 4
Adapted from Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington (Chronicle Books 2008)
Tepary beans’ firm texture and sweet flavor pair well with most vegetables. This stew includes peppers, green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes, all of which, like tepary beans, originate in the Americas. I roast red peppers directly over a gas burner while the beans are cooking, put them in a closed paper bag until cool (which makes them easier to peel), remove the charred skin with my fingers (don’t use water; it’ll take away too much flavor), and cut them into thin strips. The sweet bean and vegetable stew is perfectly set off by best-quality, sharp, salty feta cheese from Greece.

1/2 pound dried tepary beans
3 cups diced onions, 1/2” dice (1 large onion)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1” lengths (4-5 cups)
1 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then diagonally into 1/4” slices (4 cups)
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
2 red bell peppers, roasted, cut into strips and then in half
4-6 ounces best quality feta cheese, crumbled, for garnish

Spread out the tepary beans in a flat pan and inspect carefully, removing any pebbles or debris. Rinse well with cold water. Put the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for at least one hour. (NOTE: Next time I cook tepary beans, I’ll try eliminating this step; I suspect tiny teparies don’t need pre-soaking or pre-cooking.)

Bring the tepary beans and their liquid back to the boil (do not discard the original water). Turn down the heat, and simmer for 1 – 2 hours, or until the beans are just tender and not at all mushy.

In a separate pan, sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. When the tepary beans are done simmering, scrape the onions, garlic, and oil into the bean pot. Stir in the tomatoes and green beans. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the green beans are tender.

While the green beans are cooking, using the same pan in which the onions were cooked, sauté the zucchini, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil. Cook until the zucchini browns lightly and begins to soften. Turn off the heat and stir in the thyme.

When the green beans are tender, scrape the zucchini, thyme, and their oil into the bean pot. Stir in the roasted red pepper pieces. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with crumbled feta.
This is an entry for
My Legume Love Affair – 9th Helping (MLLA9), created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, which I hosted in March 2009. My Legume Love Affair - 10th Helping for April 2009 is being hosted by Courtney of Coco Cooks.


Lori Lynn said...

Very sweet hearing about your relationship with your sister. So sorry for your loss.
I had never heard of these beans, this was very interesting, and the stew looks fabulous!
Lori Lynn

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Welcome back Laurie. I too had never heard of these's always good to learn something new. The stew looks nutritious and very hearty!

Maria Verivaki said...

glad to hear the snow is disappearing

i would love to have a food enthusiast to do my food shopping with - it is very difficult to find someone interested in food in the same way as i am

recently, i bought some beans which were new to me (black mung and red lentil, but nothing quite as exotic as tepary beans - the stew does look fantastic

glamah16 said...

Thank you for your entry. Be sure to email me the details as I havent recieved it yet.
Soprry for your loss. Its a rough time and I used to find my comfort in cooking.

Karen said...

Have never heard of these beans, but the resulting stew looks absolutely delicious!

Laurie Constantino said...

Lori Lynn, there's nothing like a good sister! Glad the stew looks good to you.

Peter G., I suspect tepary beans would be nigh unto impossible to find in Australia. Pity, because they taste so good. I'd love to see what your creative mind came up with for them.

Maria, except for my sister (and you!), none of my friends are interested in food like I am so it was a rare treat in more ways than one to be with her. I've cooked a fair amount with red lentils - there's a good soup recipe for them in my cookbook. I love them because they cook so fact. However, I've never cooked with black mung which, to me, seem just as exotic as teparies.

Glamah16, I agree, cooking is very soothing.

Karen, better get shopping!! The stew really is delicious.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

So exciting to discover a new ingredient -- I've heard of tepary beans but never tried them, and now here you've given us a great introduction and a lovely recipe to get us started. Thanks!

tobias cooks! said...

nice idea. I will try this with a different kind of bean. I assume I won't get the Tepary here.

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