If you’re from San Francisco chances are you’ve heard of (and are probably in love with) Rancho Gordo, a company from Napa, CA that specializes in preserving indigenous New World seeds. Their products range from heirloom beans and grains to spices, tortillas and beyond. They have growers all over North America and co-ops in South America, an online store, their showroom in Napa and a brick and mortar inside the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Rancho Gordo is a staple in bay area high end restaurants and in my home.
So what’s the big deal with these heirloom seeds? These seeds have been handed down from generation to generation unadulterated, resistant to diseases, still have all of their nutrients and our far superior in flavor than a lot of the ravaged seeds that are planted today. The more we let these heirloom seeds disappear the less and less plant varieties we have to grow. There used to be 3,000 types of apples native to North America. Now there are only about a couple dozen. (I could keep going on an on about the effect that has on our soil, etc. but I’m going to stay on track here.)
Beans, although they take some time are very easy to cook. Just soak them overnight, rinse, place in a pot, cover with water and simmer until tender. If you have a pressure cooker you can cut the cooking time way down (which can sometimes be up to an hour). One of my favorite ways to serve beans are cold tossed with crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs and a citrusy vinaigrette.
Heirloom bean salad
- 1 cup Rancho Gordo Sangre de Toro beans dried or any other type of bean you like
- 3 cloves Garlic 2 smashed, 1 minced
- 2 large sprigs of Basil 1 left whole, 1 chopped
- Black pepper ground
- 1 Celery heart the inner ribs and leaves of the celery stalk, sliced thin
- 1 Jalapeno seeds removed, minced
- 1/2 each Red bell pepper small diced
- 1 Scallion sliced thin
- 4 sprigs of Parsley chopped
- 4 sprigs of Cilantro chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 Tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
- TT Salt & pepper
- 1 pinch Cumin ground
- Place beans in a large container and cover with 4 cups of water. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, drain the beans and rinse under cold water. Place in a medium size pot with 2 cloves smashed garlic, 1 large sprig of basil and a couple pinches of ground black pepper. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender. Depending on the bean this could take up to an hour sometimes longer. Always make sure the beans are fully submerged in water.
- When the beans are tender remove them from the heat and let cool in its liquid.
- Strain the beans and discard the garlic and basil.
- Place beans in a medium sized bowl and toss with minced garlic, chopped basil, celery, jalapeño, red bell pepper, scallion, parsley, cilantro, lime juice, EVOO, S&P and cumin.
Need Rancho Gordo Sangre de Toro beans? Try this!
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.