Tepary beans are on another level. They are distinct from most any other beans you’ve cooked with. They are a different species from ‘common beans’ (p. vulgaris), lima beans (p. lunatus), and ‘runner beans’ (p. coccineus). They are incredibly diverse and grow in at least forty-six distinct colors. They have deep roots going back thousands of years throughout the arid Southwest and through what is now referred to as Central America and at times making up to 49% of the dietary protein of the indigenous communities that cultivated them. In the early 1900’s there were millions of pounds being grown by indigenous farmers in the Southwest, though those numbers waned over time due to a range of colonial pressures.
While tepary bean acreage and use had decreased through the mid-1900s, these beans and the agriculture systems they rely on have persisted and are on the rise.
Ramona Button is the Akimel O’Odham farmer behind Ramona Farms, where these tepary beans were sourced from. Their quality is impeccable and we are grateful
and fortunate that they are making these beans available to us all. In Ramona Farms’ own words:
“Tasty, easy to digest and probably the healthiest bean on the planet, the tepary bean is native to the Sonoran desert. Tepary beans have more protein and higher fiber than ordinary beans and a lower glycemic index (41-44) so they are a great energy food for dieters and diabetics.”
In preparing these beans you will find that you will absolutely want to cook them ‘low and slow’. While that’s a good rule of thumb for all beans, some other bean varieties do okay on higher heat and comparatively faster cooks. Tepary beans on the other hand really come into their own if cooked at a low simmer for several hours. These are a good one to break out a crock pot or Instant Pot, or else a clay pot in your oven for a good chunk of the day. Once cooked you’ll find a deep savory almost
meatiness’ in the beans themselves, and a rich, satiating stock in the water they’ve been cooked in. Their texture remains distinct from the soft-starched seed bodies of black beans and the like, and I for one am a big fan.