Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Greasy Beans

(Phaseolus vulgaris)

First, they're not really greasy. They get the name from their smooth pods that lack the normal beanpod fuzz, then when they're cooked, they look greasy. There are something like 30 different varieties of greasy beans, mostly grown in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and North Carolina.

Image credit: Hozae 

Greasy beans have interesting histories, from the Cherokee Greasy, still grown the the Native American reservation in Cherokee, NC, to the Lazy Wife, whose large beans grow in clusters, making them easy to pick. In 1907, the variety was the third most popular bean in the United States, according to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. My favorite story about these beans is that Appalachian brides' wedding attire would usually include some seeds from their family's variety of greasy.

If you'd like to add a bit of hilltop heritage to your garden this year, you can find greasy beans at Secret Seed Cartel, an Ohio-based company, and several of the usual seed sellers.

For further reading, check out Hanna Raskin's entertaining article at Huff Post Food about greasy beans. Here are two of the great quotes:
"It's a muscular bean. When they're ripe, they just burst with delicious vibes."
"These are humble little hillbilly beans. But if chefs knew how to do something with them, they're feisty."

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