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Persian Shelling Beans
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The Persian shelling bean has a creamy yellow to off white pod which is speckled with pink, similar to that of the cranberry bean. The internal seeds or beans are off white in color with a glossy exterior. Once shelled from their inedible pod the beans can be dried, frozen or cooked fresh. Their flavor when cooked is rich and starchy with a meaty texture.
Persian shelling beans are available late summer through the early fall months.
Persian shelling beans are a type of common bean botanically known as Phaseolus vulgaris. A member of the Fabaceae family Persian beans are classified along with pole and bush type beans. Most commonly shelling beans such as the Persian are used dried and can be aged in the pod as well as out. If you shake the pod and hear a rattle, the beans inside are dry. Though less common fresh Persian beans can be found when in season at farmers markets and specialty stores.
When combined with corn shelling beans such as Persian supply all the amino acids needed to form a complete protein making them an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. Additionally they contain potassium, folate, fiber, iron, zinc, thiamin, magnesium and calcium.
Persian shelling beans can be used when fresh or dried and should be cooked prior to consumption. When fresh their cooking time is quicker and they do not require a presoak as with dried beans. The beans can be simmered, roasted, fried and steamed. Cooked Persian beans can be added to grain, green and pasta salads, to soups and stews or incorporated into savory pastries such as samosas and empanadas. Cooked down they can provide a thickener and flavor enhancer for sauces, dips and soups. Their flavor pairs well with bacon, vinegar, corn, garlic, tomatoes, squash, onion, marjoram, oregano, chili pepper and robust cheeses. To store keep fresh unshelled beans dry and refrigerated, using within three to four days.
Shelling beans such as Persian were commonly grown by early Mesoamerican farmers in a technique known as “the three sisters” where corn, squash and beans were planted together. The cornstalks provided a natural trellis for the beans and the squash provided ground cover to protect the roots of the crops. Additionally, when eaten together the three crops were belly filling and provided complete nutrients and protein for a people whose diet was for the most part plant based.
Native to Mesoamerica shelling beans such as the Persian bean are believed to have first been domesticated in the area that is now Mexico and Peru around 6,000 BCE. Native Americans would go on to adopt many farming practices and the plant based diet of Mesoamericans and later would pass on these crops to European explorers in the New World. Beans would go on to pop up in cuisines around the world from France, Spain, England and Portugal to India, China and Japan. Shelling beans thrive in the warm summer months and will grow quickly first producing leaves then flowers followed lastly by bean pods.