Heirloom Beans for Holiday Feasts!

Colorful Christmas lima, also known as Chestnut lima, will keep some of its purple color and its shape in cooking.  Photo by Muffin Burgess

Colorful Christmas lima, also known as chestnut lima, will keep some of its purple color and its shape in cooking. Photo by Muffin Burgess

Among beans, Christmas Lima is a giant not only in size but in flavor!  This heirloom Phaseolus lunatus is dramatic mottled purple and white, and lends itself to many colorful dishes.  Try a holiday tip from the Heirloom Bean Queen “Tia Pan Dulce”—sure to please vegetarian and omnivore alike:  Curried Christmas Limas!

The evening before cooking, sort and wash ½ lb of dry Christmas Limas.  Presoak overnight in plenty of water (at least a qt) as they will swell.  Next day give remaining water to your compost and add a qt of fresh drinking water.  Simmer limas without salt until they test tender (1 ½-2hrs stove top; 2-3hrs solar oven; 3-5 hrs crock pot).  Some people prefer them al dente.  I like them soft and done through but not mushy.  Reserve the bean liquid.

Saute ½ cup chopped onion, ½ cup chopped celery, ½ cup thin-sliced winter squash, and ½ cup chopped sweet pepper in olive oil and stir in 2 tsp curry powder.  (My favorite curry powder is from Santa Cruz Chile and Spice Co, available at most southern Arizona groceries.  If you are ever in the Tubac area give yourself an olfactory adventure by visiting the SC Spice Co outlet just south of Tumacacori Mission Nat Hist Park.)

Add cooked limas to the veggie curry stir-fry adding either veggie stock or the reserved bean liquid as needed.  Simmer on low heat until flavors are blended (about 1/2 hr) and salt to taste.  Serve with brown rice or polenta for a complete protein complement.

(Here’s another idea to try with cooked Christmas limas:  If they keep their shape as individual beans when done, you can serve them as veggie hors d’oeuvres with toothpicks dipped in your favorite sauce.  Try BBQ or Asian or chilpotle sauce.  They are better than meatballs and much healthier!)

If you want to GROW Christmas limas for yourself, save a few seed out of the bag you find at Sunday’s Heirloom farmers’ market or at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell, Tucson).  Plant them in April where they can vine their way up a trellis in dappled light or into a low-growing tree.  They are long-season, so plan on tending them thru heat of May and June until the monsoons give them a boost.  You will be climbing the tree or trellis to harvest big pods in the fall, ready for homegrown holiday cookery next year.

Bright and beautiful Four Corners Gold beans are used in the traditional winter ceremony by the Zuni.  These beans are truly light-returning and life-renewing.  photo by Muffin Burgess

Bright and beautiful Four Corners Gold beans are truly light-returning and life-renewing.  photo by Muffin Burgess

An important heirloom for the season– used by Native cultures of the Southwest since time-immemorial to celebrate the Winter Solstice—is the festive yellow and white Four Corners Gold Bean (aka Zuni Gold).  It will lend itself to any hearty dish you may want to have simmering in a crock pot ready to drive off any chill from ski-ing, hiking, cycling, or dog-walking thru these short wintry days.  Try them in a bean soup with an oxtail from Jojoba Beef at the farmers’ market; or as chile beans with Native Seeds/SEARCH’s amazing chilpotle chile powder; or as a dip mashed with a Tarahumara bean masher, dashes of Red Devil tabasco sauce and 1 tsp of cumin powder.

"Moon Beans" spiced with Pipian Rojo Mole from Mano y Metate makes an exceptionally festive vegetarian dish!  photo by Muffin Burgess

“Moon Beans” spiced with Pipian Rojo Mole from Mano y Metate makes an exceptionally festive vegetarian dish! photo by Muffin Burgess

My grandmother always served us black-eyed peas for New Year’s telling us grandkids that the number of them we ate was the number of dollars we would make in the new year.  In her tradition of black-eyed peas, as New Year’s approaches, I like to fix a Southwestern version of black-eyes:  Moon Beans!   For a festive flavor try moon beans with pipian rojo mole as a centerpiece dish, adding the prepared mole powder from Mano y Metate in the last half hour of bean cooking.

Solar-cooked Moon Beans can be downright celestial.  If December 30 or 31 is going to be sunny, and if you know you will be “hanging out” available for re-orienting your solar oven every ½ hour or hour, soak your Moon Beans the night before, change the water next day, and in a saucepan with plenty of drinking water add a ham hock and/or chopped onions and veggies to your Moon Beans.  A few hours of solar cookery will provide a New Year’s home-made feast worth a million dollars.

Happy Holiday-time with Heirloom Beans– and Bon appetit from Martha Burgess!  http://www.flordemayoarts.com

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