Here is what Tarbais (pronounced Taar bay) beans looks like on the vine and closeup, after dried but before shelling and when shelled in jars. I like to cook and wanted to learn how to make a french dish called ‘Cassoulet’ last year (2012) and had a heck of a time finding this particular bean that hails from France where I would have to pay $34.00 an ounce for heirloom Tarbais beans ! That’s because our USDA and the cost of their inspections drives up the price to get them into the US. The ones to grow can be different from the beans to eat. The ones you can purchase to eat might not be a true heirloom, mixing genetically with other beans but they will taste the same unless you try to grow them out. The heirloom variety were not in any seed catalog last year but I finally found 4 people who offered their heirloom seeds through Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in their Members Catalog ($4 for shipping only) and each gave a lot of beans (30+). Well worth joining because 1) you are supporting growing heirloom seeds and 2) many people grow unusual vegetables and offer their seeds through SSE. They were the only ones who had them in 2012 in the US. This year (2013) I saw them offered at Baker Heirloom Seeds in their catalog and got more although now I have my own supply of them as well.
Navy bean (top) and Tarabais bean (bottom)
So what’s so special about the Tarbais bean? I probably could have used a white Navy bean but I read that the Tarbais bean is slightly bigger and becomes creamy without disintegrating and becoming mushy like many other beans do and I wanted to be authentic and grow out that variety of bean.
The Tarbais bean originally came from the village of Tarbais, in southwestern France and is used in cassoulet dishes. Tarbais beans were developed by generations of farmers that lived in that area. The Tarbais Bean in 2000 obtained IGP status (Indication of Protected Geographical Origin). Only members of a small, closed cooperative in Tarbais are allowed to use that name for their beans, and production is tightly regulated. The original seed is a New World runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and most think it originated in Mexico.
That’s one of the great things about growing your own vegetables-you can grow something you might not find in the grocery store. That doesn’t mean it will taste exactly the same as where it originated from (like I doubt a New Mexico chili grown in New Jersey would taste the same as our conditions and soil are very different) but at least I could try. The beans are grown like any pole bean that you are going to leave on the vine until dried. They were harder to start as the birds liked the ‘bean sprouts’ when they popped up so I had to replant several times and cover them with row cover to protect them until they were about 3 inches tall. After that it was a breeze. Just water them regularly. They will produce many pods that you just leave on until fall when they dry on the plant.
Part 2 of this will be the about Cassoulets and the recipe I used.
Today the ‘Emerite’ beans, some beets and 3 little tomatoes were ready for harvest! The beans are french vericots and should be picked very thin when they are tender. If you wait till they are bigger they will be tough. The beets were from thinning them out some more so the rest of them can get bigger. The garlic in the picture was harvested a couple of weeks go and is dry and ready to clean up.
On Sunday, Caleb and Elodie and I created a bean teepee in one the beds where pole beans will grow. I wanted to make it large enough that a person (even an adult) could sit inside it this summer when it is covered with bean plants. I can’t wait to experience what it will be like.
Here is the pole bean teepee I had last year but it was completely closed so this year we left an opening in the tee-pee to get in and out.
I had some really tall poles so we could get the height and width needed to make it large enough. I got the poles from my friend, Tuko, who had them on an arbor at her house and was taking it down. That was many years ago and I’ve saved them all this time for something special and I think I found that special project. I’m hoping that my neighbor’s grandson, Aiden will go in it later this summer.
So today in the wind, I went out and planted some seeds before this supposed rain comes. I planted beets and carrots on both sides and then I covered them with row cover (for now) so the seeds wouldn’t blow away and stay wet longer when I water them. The row cover helps the seeds stay in place! Later after the plants come up I will take off the sheets!
Well, if you are wondering why I haven’t been posting, it is because I’ve been out PLANTING, trying to get the last of the garden in. So far, I have 70 tomato plants, ‘Rattlesnake’ pole beans around my trellis, 4 ‘Pepperocini’ pepper plants, 16 eggplants, 2 rhubarbs and put additional wall of waters around all of the tomatoes and created some new drip sections for all these.
Tomorrow (Sunday) goes in 12 shishito pepper plants, bush bean seeds, pole bean seeds, 4 different types of cucumbers seeds, ornamental japonica corn, flowers and a new drip system manifold (I take a deep breath now) I hope to get this done (early-way early!) before the BIG WINDS come in AGAIN and make life MISERABLE….
Monday goes in 2 giant pumpkins, 1 giant greenie squash, 2 giant marrows and a giant pear gourd go in. The long gourds will have to wait till I make them a trellis later this week or next.
Phew! It is always such a big push in spring to get things in the garden and fall come harvest time. The rest of the time I feel like I’m just cruising in the garden! All this on 4000 sq feet of garden which is only 1/10 of an acre…
I just finished building my new arbor entry into the vegetable garden. It is built with coyote fence posts attached to t-posts and 2″ x 4″ wire fencing. Coyote fence posts are made out of cedar and so are resistant to bugs. Settlers used to fence their livestock with this fencing material to keep out coyotes here in the Southwest. I will grow pole green beans called ‘Rattlesnake beans’ that can reach 13′ high. They are green with purple streaks and are said to taste very good. I imagine walking through the arbor with green vines and beautiful beans all around me. In the background are my tomatoes in wall of waters and the strawberry patch.