Before I started growing my own dry beans, I have to admit that I tended to think of beans as a rather neutral ingredient, adding body and texture to a dish, but mostly serving as a vehicle for the other flavors around them. Now several years into expanding my heirloom bean repertoire, I have a much greater appreciation for the surprising diversity of texture, bite, and flavor that can be found in heirloom bean varieties.
No other bean has made me more acutely aware of this than Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg.
Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg is an easy to grow variety. I grew these beans in 2014 in one of my raised beds. The plants have a nice compact bush habitat, so it is not difficult to sneak in a short row somewhere in the garden. They were an early producer in my garden, and after harvesting a really nice yield of dry beans in August, the plants set another round of pretty light pink flowers and I was able to get a smaller second harvest off the same row of beans. My favorite thing about growing these beans was the way the green bean pods dried white with really pretty purple spotting similar to to the bean markings.
I found that these pretty cream and maroon beans need a long time to cook. They benefit from an overnight soak, but even then they still need to simmer for over an hour over low heat.
Fully cooked, the pretty markings get a little muddled, but inside the beans have a nice soft white color and a semi-creamy texture. While some beans have a tendency to ‘pop’ or even melt in your mouth, these beans are a little more dry. But what I find really remarkable about these beans is the flavor. They have a very savory flavor that I have not previously experienced with the other heirloom bean varieties I have tried.
I really struggled with how to use this uniquely flavored bean, and so after that first pot, they sat in jars in the pantry for the better part of a year before I finally stumbled on the right recipe.
Finding recipes that call for a specific variety of heirloom bean are hard to come by, so when I found this bean spread recipe on Local Kitchen that was specifically adapted for these beans, I was super excited and knew that it was time to cook up another pot! I pretty much followed the recipe as is, though I was a bit heavy handed with the rosemary and parsley because I didn’t want the little bit extra I had to go to waste and I added the whole bulb of garlic before reading more carefully that I was supposed to start with only half–I don’t regret any of these decisions. I also processed my spread to a smoother consistency than the original recipe calls for, but still maintained little flecks of maroon beans and green herbs, which make for a very pretty bean spread.
The fresh herbs (especially the rosemary) and roasted garlic were a perfect match for this savory bean, and this application really helped to bring out a creamier texture. The flavor really developed nicely after a day in the refrigerator–it’s one of those flavor profiles that keeps you coming back for another taste.
I still have another pint jar of these beans left in the pantry, but now my dilemma is to make another batch of this bean spread, or find another rosemary-infused recipe to try out…