Magical Fruit: Dried Beans

This article first appeared in our March 2012 issue, with the story Full of Beans.

By Gabriella Gershenson

Published on March 18, 2019

When it comes to choosing dried beans for making baked beans, there are plenty of options. The most common variety—and the one used in canned baked beans—is navy (second from left), or pea beans, which are small, white, and starchy, with a mild neutral flavor. In recent years, however, growers have been reviving several New England heirlooms. One popular type is the soldier bean (far right), a white kidney-shaped legume named for the maroon marking near its eye that is said to resemble a toy soldier. These cook up creamy but keep their shape and are relatively mellow in flavor. In Maine, where people are particularly opinionated about beans, yellow eye beans (second from right) are the most popular for baked beans. Off-white with a caramel-colored spot, they're similar in texture to navy beans but have a more distinct earthy flavor. Another beloved Maine variety that's perfect for baked beans, Jacob's Cattle (far left), is ivory-colored with maroon speckles, and tastes somewhat sweet and robust. All these heirlooms can be purchased online, and you may even find them at your local farmers' market.

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