The Tarbais Bean – Local and Legendary

coat of arm Bigoree FranceI love a good cassoulet. It's a comfort food that warms my soul, and anything that does that I hold in high regard. So, when my friends at The Framed Table posted about a quick preparation of this classic of French cuisine, it was here that I learned about the Tarbais bean. While I love to cook, and French cuisine is a favorite of mine, I don't cook it. That's what French bistros are for. I didn't know an authentic cassoulet required these tender morsels from the land of Bigorre, an area in the southwest region of France. It all started to come together, food, a local ingredient with a history and traditional, and it came from a garden. It's a perfect match for me.

While researching, I came across this blog post about the bean. It's a fascinating read, and I'm going to highlight a couple of key parts. The first;

The first French bean to be granted of Label Rouge, in 1997, Tarbais Beans are famed for their extremely thin skin, which makes them easier to cook and gives them an unbeatable, delicate flavour.

The Label Rouge created in France in 1960 by the  Agricultural Orientation Law guarantees a product has superior features compared to a similar product. In response to the industrialization of poultry farming, French poultry farmers started the process to get this law passed.

The second part I want to highlight is this;

Favourable soil The land of Bigorre is known for its light, silt-laden and rather stony soil, with a somewhat acid PH and little clay. Too much clay would thicken the seed peel and make the bean more floury. The plants benefit from the gravel of the Pyrenean mountain streams, which store up warmth during the day and release it during the night.

Suitable climate The type of soil is not enough to explain the distinctive qualities of the Tarbais Bean. In fact, the same seed, grown in identical conditions on very similar soils in other areas (Petites Pyrenees, alluvial terraces of the Garonne...), do not produce the same quality.

Bigorre is where the oceanic influence of the Gulf of Gascony meets the continental effects of the region of Toulouse : the resulting pleasant climate is a determining factor in the character of the Tarbais Haricot. Our area is free from the drying “devil’s wind” (the Autan); instead it benefits from the temperate Föhn, which comes from Aragon and grows gentler as it crosses France.

One of the many things destroyed by the industrial food complex is the loss of quality in food including the subtle influences of locally grown food. French poultry farmers realized that industrialization threatened this quality, and their livelihood. They addressed this to the government in 1960, which responded, while America embraced this industrialization.

After reading about the subtle differences that the local soil and climate have on the authentic Tarbais bean, I saw an opportunity for content. As regular readers know, I look at my life as a story I write everyday. With that in mind, I look for opportunities to present themselves as content. I could have left this as a stand alone post, however that wouldn't be much fun. So, I found a source of Tabaris seeds, and will order them today. I'll grown them here in southern New Jersey, and get some authentic beans to compare and contrast. It will also challenge me to cook a cassoulet. Stay tuned.

¡TIERRA!, Lavazza's Responsible Choice, Part 3

screen shot photograph lavazza good karm good coffee In the first two parts of this series, I wrote about the choices that business owners make in running their business. In part 1, I contrasted the choice of greed versus social responsibility, in part 2, I wrote about ¡TIERRA!, a project by Lavazza coffee to create sustainable and autonomous coffee growing communities in six countries on three continents, and today, I'm going to write about the roundtable I attended that inspired this series.

The roundtable, Partners for Sustainability, Together for a Sustainable Future at Salone del Gusto Terra Madre 2012. The roundtable was a discussion between Daniel R. Katz, founder and board chair of Rainforest Alliance, Ana Paula Tavares, executive vice president of Rainforest Alliance, Carlo Petrini, founder and chairman of SlowFood, and Giuseppe Lavazza, vice president of Lavazza.

Carlo Petrini spoke first. I have been familiar with Carlo Petrini since I discovered Slow Food back in the late '90s. This roundtable was the first time I hear him talk. He's a very smart man, committed to his cause, and he focused on what the true meaning of sustainable. An interesting point he made was about how something goes from  being a viable idea to something so big, that is just talk. When it gets to this point, the idea, no matter what it is, is not sustainable. He followed that with a warning that with the finite resources we have on the planet, mass consumption, is not an option.

Next to talk were Daniel R. Katz and Ana Paula Tavares of the Rainforest Alliance. I have to admit, I didn't know much about this nongovernmental organization. I knew that their mission was to stop the wanton destruction of rainforests, but that was it. I didn't know about their certification program, which from the brief description I heard, is quite impressive. First though, something that Daniel Katz said struck me as someone who is authentic in his purpose, this is paraphrase, that he'd rather build a solution than a bridge because bridges can be burned. To me that indicates long-term thinking with the focus on the mission, not the personalities involved. Also, he mentioned that the Rainforest Alliance's larger audiences are the United States and the United Kingdom, not Europe. Hopefully, that will change since they and now working with Slow Food International.

Back to the Rainforest Alliance's certification program. Ana Paula Tavares spoke after Daniel, and one of the topics she touched was the certification program. She said that there were different specific requirements for the different types of products they certify, but a few general requirements include access to healthcare, high quality production standards, schools on the land where the producing community is located, the right of the workers to organize, and that the minum age for work is 15 years old. To me, this defines what Daniel Katz said about building a solution, and not a bridge. Having a stringent requirements is a solution for all the people involved.

Giuseppe Lavazza spoke last. As a student of gesture, I'm constantly observing people. It fascinates me, and intuitively, it helps me read people. Lavazza's gesture was the most interesting. During the roundtable, whie the others were talking, Lavazza sat there in listening intently, while pondering what was being discussed. When it came to his turn to speak, he spoke with pride about the history of Lavazza and their commitment to social responsibility. His warm smile, his bright eyes and animated gesture, reinforced his genuine commitment to ¡TIERRA!. When some challenges were presented to him about the future direction of sustainability, especially in Africa, he sat listening intently again, and I'm convinced he took these challenges to heart.

All in all, this was a fascinating discussion to me. I learned a lot since I do have a keen interest in socially responsible business practices. Now that I'm aware of the scope of ¡TIERRA!, and the challenges that exist, I'll be following this project to see how it progresses, and to see if Lavazza caries on the sentiment expressed by Luigi Lavazza in 1935, "I don’t want to be part of a world that destroys Nature’s treasures.”

Time will tell, and so will social media.

Lime Green Salad Tomatoes, A Unique Tomato Experience

Limegreen1 Lime Green Salad Tomatoes, aka Green Elf tomatoes, are a unique tomato bred by Tom Wagner, a well-known breeder of heritage type potatoes and tomatoes. When I first read the name Lime Green Salad Tomatoes, the concept of a compact tomato plant that offered up small green tomatoes captured my imagination. It boggled my mind that a tomato plant less the 3 ft. tall could produce an abundant amount of tasty tomatoes. And the fact of the matter is, they do it very well. The tomatoes themselves are 1 oz.– 3 oz. in size, and have the sweet and slightly spicy taste that the green tomatoes have. The tend to get a nice hue of yellow as they get very ripe, and they contrast nicely is a gazpacho or salsa with the black cherry tomatoes, and some northern lights bicolor. The flavor is not as deep as a Aunt Ruby's German Green, however it is satisfying enough that you'll go back for more.

Limegreen2 When I grew these again they will be in containers. The plants are so compact that if you put them in the ground, you're going to spend a lot of time on the ground caring for them. I tend to pick the predator bugs off my plants. I'm impressed with neem oil as a pesticide, however I really try to avoid spraying anything on my plants.

And because the plants are so compact, it's easy for some beetles or cutworms to hide in the very center of these plants. The foliage is lush dark green, darker then most of the foliage I have seen on other plants. Another unique element of these plants are the canopy of branches that rise up from the top of the plants, like a crown that is filled with hundreds of tiny yellow flowers. Once the fruit forms, the plants I grew got top heavy, and the toppled Limegreen3 over.

It seems like cages are more appropriate for these plants then stakes. The way the canopy rises up, it's like a network of small, thin branches. It was hard for me to find a good center point for a stake, and even if I could, the branches seemed a little fragile to tie up securely to a stake. So a container and a cage would work well for these plants.


Boothby's Blonde, My First Harvest

Bootby1 Tonight was it, my first harvest! And the first time I've tasted Boothby' Blonde Cucumber. And the result, it tastes like a cucumber, which I love cucumbers. And there is quite a difference in one that you grow as opposed to the ones you buy. A major difference, no wax. That's why I don't buy them in supermarkets. Secondly, there no comparison to a freshly picked anything and some supermarket dud. And finally and most important, you will never see these in a supermarket. A farm market perhaps. That's the value of growing heirlooms. They are unique. For myself that's important. I want to experience the buffet that Mother Nature provided. Not be feed what come profit driven business decides what's best for them. I like idea that cucumbers could be yellow, that tomatoes can be considered black or purple, string beans are purple and peppers and melons that come all shapes, sizes and colors. There's a zest to that. A passion that is meant to delight the senses, and inspire the soul. It's nice to have options.

Boothby2 The cucumber itself is delightfuly crisp, has a sweet creamy texture, and from what I can see, the plants are very prolific. I'm glad I choose to grow these. I hope you will consider them as well.

I have Lemon Cucumbers on deck. I grew them last year and only got a few. I did enjoy them and look forward to picking a few of them in the next week or so. I'll post about them as well. Round and yellow, now there's a cucumber to turn your concept of cucumbers upside down.