Aside from their gorgeous appearance and incredible taste (isn't that reason enough?), growing and eating heirloom beans offers a host of benefits. Here are a few reasons we love to celebrate and honor these remarkable little seeds:
- Cultural Connection and Preservation - By purchasing heirloom beans, you are celebrating cultural heritage and history that has been passed down through generations. Heirloom beans connect us to a culinary legacy that stretches back in time. When you eat an heirloom bean you are eating the same food from the same seed that was consumed by our ancestors.
- Gentler on the Environment - Unlike commercial varieties that are grown for yield and scale, heirloom beans are cultivated by smaller farms and seed savers who are typically more concerned with culinary properties than volume. Heirloom beans, by nature, are harder to grow and result in lower yields than standard varieties. This smaller scale enables farmers to preserve and care for the land more carefully than they could if output was the primary motivation. Their farming practices tend to be less reliant on chemical inputs, benefiting the environment.
- Promote Biodiversity - With the focus on scale in industrial agriculture, high-yield mono-crop farming has contributed to the loss of some bean varieties. By buying heirloom varieties, you help preserve seed diversity which is a key contributor to developing more resilient crops and fighting climate change.
- Enhanced Culinary Experience: Heirloom beans are typically grown and sold within a year of their harvest date - meaning they are fresher and preserve more flavor than potentially stale store bought varieties. They also come in an incredible range of sizes and colors, adding interest, beauty, and variety to our meals.
- Improve Food Security - Industrial agriculture might produce more food in the short-term, but in the long run contributes to soil degradation and susceptibility to disease. By supporting more variety in what we eat and grow, we are ultimately making our food system more resilient.
- Fuel Local Communities - Given that heirloom beans are typically grown by smaller farms, buying these varieties can help support local communities.
There are tens of thousands of heirloom bean varieties known to exist on earth. Each bean carries a story, unique flavor profile, and heritage. The benefits of supporting their growth and preservation goes well beyond the plate - although we venture to guess that their taste, alone, will keep you coming back for more.
Photo: Milada Vigerova