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Southwest beans.


Heirloom beans native to the American Southwest and Mexico are finding their way into home gardens, markets, and restaurants around the West. These are bean varieties that date back hundreds or even thousands of years, with such descriptive names as 'Anasazi', once grown by cliff dwellers of ancient New Mexico; 'Montezuma Red Twiner', said to be discovered in 3,000-year-old Mayan tombs; and 'Aztec Dwarf White', possibly cultivated by the Aztecs.

Long touted in health food circles for their nutritional value, dried beans like these Southwest natives are also gaining status in the gourmet world--for their high protein, high mineral, low fat, and high fiber content, and their attractiveness and versatility.

Now gardeners and cooks can grow and harvest their own Southwestern heirlooms to use in the recipes at right. If you don't have space or time to grow your own beans, you can order most by mail.


The beans shown on pages 70 and 71 have varied flavors, textures, and appearances. Check the pictures and descriptions to choose varieties that appeal to you.

Size is a consideration. 'Aztec Scarlet Runner' and limas grow much taller than the rest (8 to 15 feet tall). For best production, train them on a trellis or tepee at least 6 feet tall.

The other bean vines are short climbers (usually about 3 feet tall). Grow on short trellises, or allow to sprawl on the ground.

'Aztec Dwarf White' (also called potato bean) and tepary beans are drought tolerant. If overwatered, they produce foliage rather than beans. Scarlet runners don't do well in the low desert. The limas are unsuitable for cool, foggy, coastal climates or cold-winter areas; they need a long, fairly warm growing season (about a hundred days).


When soil has warmed to above 60|degrees~, plant seeds 6 inches apart and an inch deep, except tepary seeds: plant these 4 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep. Rows should be about 4 feet apart. If growing beans on poles, plant six seeds per pole; thin to three plants when they are a couple of inches high.

Keep soil moist during germination and plant growth (drought-tolerant beans noted previously can dry some between waterings). If plants are moisture-stressed while beans form, pods may not fill properly.

You can harvest scarlet runner beans and 'Mitla Black' as green beans, and any of them as shelling beans (when seeds have swelled but are still soft), or wait until they're dry and hard.

The best way to dry beans is to leave them on the vine until pods are crackling dry and seeds don't dent with a fingernail. If you expect rain or frost before the beans are dry, harvest them and lay them out on a tarp in a covered area, then put them out in the sun to finish drying.


There are several ways to harvest dried beans. Valerie Phipps of Phipps Ranch in Pescadero, California, gave us some tips. She has harvested heirloom beans for years. She says, "By the time you've done all the work, the beans are like a treasure."

One way to harvest beans is to pop their shells open, as with fresh peas. It's work, but Phipps says time flies if you're watching a movie on the tube. To speed things up, she suggests placing the pods in a burlap bag or pillowcase and stomping on them.

At the ranch, the pods are piled on a tarp and beaten with a flail--a long supple pole of willow wood. Or, you can just use a long board.

If harvesting pods from the vine seems like too much work, Phipps offers another option. Pull plants up by their roots, dry the vines thoroughly on a tarp in the sun, then bang them back and forth in a new trash can until the beans fall from their shells.

After you've beaten or stomped on the pods, you're left with a pile of beans covered with chaff. Place all on a tarp. Remove as much large plant material as possible. Then throw the chaff and beans up in the air; let the wind carry the chaff away--or blow it away with a fan.


Store dried beans in an air-tight container. If moisture forms inside the container within the first 24 hours, beans aren't completely dry. Lay them out to dry further.

To kill weevils or eggs that can come in on beans, place beans in a freezer overnight.


The first three catalogs offer seeds for planting; the last three, beans for cooking. Not all beans listed in this article are sold in every catalog.

Native Seeds/SEARCH, 2509 N. Campbell Ave., Box 325, Tucson, Ariz. 85719; (602) 327-9123 (for information or a catalog only). The catalog costs $1.

Plants of the Southwest, Agua Fria, Route 6, Box 11A, Santa Fe, N.M. 87501; (505) 471-2212. The catalog costs $4.

Seeds of Change, 1364 Rufina Circle, Suite 5, Santa Fe, N.M. 87501; (505) 438-8080. The catalog costs $3 (refundable with order).

The Bean Bag, 818 Jefferson St., Oakland, Calif. 94607; (800) 845-2326. 'Anasazi', 'New Mexico Appaloosa', 'Hopi White' lima, scarlet runner, and brown and white tepary.

Gallina Canyon Ranch, 144 Camino Escondido, Santa Fe, N.M. 87501; (505) 982-4149. 'New Mexico Appaloosa', scarlet runner.

Phipps Ranch, Box 349, 2700 Pescadero Rd., Pescadero, Calif. 94060; (415) 879-0787. 'Anasazi', 'New Mexico Appaloosa', 'Bolita', scarlet runner, 'White Aztec' (pueblo), brown and white tepary.


If you soak dried beans, cooking time is reduced by about half. Some feel soaking reduces factors that cause indigestion and gas as well.

Soaked dried beans. Sort and discard foreign matter from 1 pound (2 to 2 3/4 cups) dried beans. Rinse beans and place in a 5- to 6-quart pan; add 2 1/2 quarts water. Let stand at least 8 hours or up to 12 hours; drain and rinse.

To speed the process, bring beans and water to a boil; boil 2 to 3 minutes. Cover; cool at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Drain and rinse.

Cooked Southwest soaked beans. To a 5- to 6-quart pan, add 3 quarts water for each pound (dry weight) soaked dried beans (directions precede). Bring to a boil; simmer, covered, until beans are tender to bite (add more water to cover if necessary), 25 minutes to 2 hours. Time depends on how long beans have been stored (those older than a year may never soften) and how they were soaked. Drain. Use, store airtight in refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze up to 3 months. Each pound of dried beans yields 6 to 7 cups cooked.

Use one kind of bean or a mixture in the following recipes. To maintain their shape, cook each bean variety separately, then mix in recipe. If shape doesn't matter (as in the taco filling), cook a variety of beans together; some may fall apart. Many beans change color when cooked.

You can substitute pinto, lima, small white, red, pink, or black beans from your supermarket.

Bean and Tomato Salad

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves

4 cups cooked, cooled Southwest beans (directions precede)

4 large (about 10 oz. each) firm-ripe tomatoes, cored

Fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix together the orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, chopped basil, and cooked beans.

Thinly slice tomatoes crosswise. Divide tomatoes equally among six plates. Mound bean mixture equally on tomatoes. Garnish with basil sprigs; add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.--David Tanis, Cafe Escalera, Santa Fe

Per serving: 225 cal. (14 percent from fat); 11 g protein; 3.4 g fat (0.5 g sat.); 40 g carbo.; 21 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Bean and Hominy Stew

1 teaspoon salad oil

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1 large (about 1/2-lb.) onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 quart regular-strength chicken broth

2 cans (7 oz. each) diced green chilies

6 to 7 cups cooked Southwest beans (directions precede)

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) golden hominy, drained)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)

Cilantro sprigs (optional)


In a 4- to 5-quart pan, combine oil, cumin, onion, and garlic. Stir over medium heat until onion is limp, about 7 minutes. Stir in flour to coat onion. Gradually stir in broth until blended; stir until broth boils. Mix in chilies, beans, and hominy. Cover and simmer until hot, about 15 minutes. Stir in chopped cilantro. Ladle into bowls or a tureen. Garnish with cilantro sprigs; add salt to taste. Serves 7 or 8.

Per serving: 283 cal. (8 percent from fat); 15 g protein; 2.5 g fat (0.5 g sat.); 51 g carbo.; 445 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Soft Tacos with Beans

12 corn tortillas (5- to 6-in. size)

1 large (about 1/2-lb.) onion, chopped

1/4 cup ground New Mexico or California chilies

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 cup regular-strength chicken broth

3 to 3-1/2 cups cooked Southwest beans (cooking directions precede)

2 cups shredded lettuce

1 cup (1/4 lb.) shredded cheddar or jack cheese

3/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Lime wedges


Lightly brush tortillas with water and stack. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in a 325|degrees~ oven until hot and steamy, about 20 minutes.

In a 3- to 4-quart pan, stir onion in 2 tablespoons water over medium-high heat until onion is limp and tinged with brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in chilies, flour, and coriander. Gradually blend in broth. Stir until mixture boils. Reduce heat; add beans. Simmer, covered, until beans are hot, about 5 minutes; stir occasionally. Remove 1 cup beans from pan and coarsely mash; return to pan.

Present beans, tortillas, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and lime wedges in separate bowls. To make tacos, fill tortillas with beans. lettuce, cheese, and sour cream; add lime juice and salt to taste and roll up to eat. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 573 cal. (24 percent from fat); 28 g protein; 15 g fat (6.2 g sat.); 87 g carbo.; 434 mg sodium; 30 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar; Anusasananan, Linda Lau
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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