Sunday, October 31, 2010
We stopped last week to buy apples at a big farm stand near Hendersonville, and among all the lovely apples and beets and ornamental squashes and tough, late-season green beans were a few bags of dried, shelled beans marked "dried October shellies." They were available in pods, too, by the handful: half-dried, twisted pods, beautifully mottled with pink and creamy white swirls. The beans, too, were pink and white. I cannot resist beans, so I bought some.
I did some research at home. My cookbooks were little help; the only people writing about these beans (which go by the names October beans, shelly beans and -- get this -- horticultural beans) seem to have ties to Appalachia and heirloom seeds. These beans seem to be grown mostly in parts of the rural, mountainous South and Midwest. They can be eaten fresh or dried. The pods are edible, too -- people chop them up and put them in soups for flavor.
I cooked them very simply, Southern-style: a few hours of soaking, followed by cooking with two slices of chopped up, rendered bacon, a dried red chile, water and a drizzle of honey. They cooked more quickly than older dried beans.
Surprisingly, they taste very much like pinto beans. I expected a more crowder-pea-like, brassy flavor, or maybe something creamier and lighter like an Italian cannellini.
We ate them mostly plain with cornbread and sauteed spinach that night. We had them left over for lunch. And yesterday -- five days later -- I cooked the rest of them with some tomatoes, rosemary, dried red chiles and garlic and such and served them over linguine. I like Italian bean pastas a lot.