The holy grail of dried beans are Tarabais beans. They are a runner bean (Phaeseolus coccineus). Haricots Tarabais (as they are called in France), have been grown for centuries in Tarbes, at the foot of the French Pyrénées in the southwestern region of France close to the Spanish border. This white bean, which is larger than a navy bean, is thin-skinned, sweet and has creamy flesh and doesn’t fall apart when cooked. They are commonly used in a classic french dish called cassoulet, a rich and savory casserole baked with these beans, duck confit, sausage, pork, sometimes lamb, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. This is a great winter dish. Different cities in France have different ingredients in their cassoulets, but all of them start with these beans. They are also perfect for any bean salads or bean soups.
I had a hard time finding them last year in the states. When I went online to get them from France they were very expensive- $34 an ounce! I had a friend who was in Germany try to get some for me but they were still $15 an ounce. Too rich for my blood and to think these were originally used as a peasant casserole! I was about to give up when I saw them in my 2012 Seed Saver’s Exchange members book last year. There were 4 people offering them in the US. It cost $5 (for postage) to get them. So I spent $20 and got some from all four members. Enough for 2 years. Well this year you’ll be in luck if you want to try these beans-they are in Baker Heirloom Seeds for the first time and are easily available this year in the states.
In growing these beans, I found it tough to get them started having to replant the seeds 3 times before I got them to germinate on my 8 ft long fence. They grew up over the 3 foot tall fence and curled back on the other side which was fine. Once up they are up, they are an easy keeper. You don’t have to do anything special except to be sure to give them adequate water. They did get a little rust on some of the leaves but regrew new leaves (like all my beans) without it reoccurring again. You’ll need to get them in the ground as early as possible as soon as the ground warms up because it takes all season for the pods to mature. Then I picked them after the pods dried. After I picked them, I brought them inside, shelled them and placed the beans on a cookie sheet until they were really dry. You can tell if they are dry enough to put away by biting one and if it is rock hard and no give, then it is ready. After that I put them in some mason type jars where they are ready for me to start the cassoulet adventure this winter!