La Tercera Produce Does it the Hard Way
Annabelle Lenderink grows great produce, including some eaters may not be familiar with. This time of year she recommends haricot violets, or purple beans.
Shell Bean and Green Bean Ragout
Photo by Lori Eanes
Annabelle Lenderink’s farm, La Tercera, bears mentioning in any long-ranging discussion of Bay Area farmers’ markets.
Her occasional stall at the downtown Berkeley market stands out among the rows of white tents because her canopy is one of weathered patterned cloth. There are no discernible lines of people or a cash register, and the varieties of squash, beans, and herbs seem starkly individualistic. Among the Aleppo peppers, chrysanthemum greens, and the anise hyssop are extremely sweet, purple fresh beans—not haricot verts, but haricot violets, the purple variant of the late summer, early fall “mangetout” green bean. Sweeter than Blue Lakes, narrower and more tender, one might easily decide to make the trip to Berkeley just for these.
The variety of purple green bean that Lenderink grows on her small, non-mechanized farm in Bolinas is called Velours. She believes they’re sweet because of the weather around her farm. “Part of the reason they are so good is the variety itself, and part of it is that they are grown in our cool coastal climate. Beans don’t actually want too much heat; it makes them tough.”
Kelsie Kerr, chef-owner of Berkeley’s Standard Fare, is a big fan of La Tercera beans. “They have so much delicious flavor, and are so hard to grow and harvest.”
Haricots violets actually lose their purple color when they cook, so the eater isn’t necessarily aware that they were purple to begin with, even when they are steamed, which Lenderink likes to do, finishing with a drizzle of walnut oil. They turn a very dark green.
At Standard Fare, Kerr does many beautiful dishes, which are taken home to be reheated in handmade ceramic pots. She loves to make a fresh shell bean and green bean ragout with both haricots verts (the green variety) and the haricots violets. “You can see that they cook up differently. They make absolutely delicious salads. They have delicious structure. Green beans can fall apart, but haricots verts hold their shape really well.”
The beans are planted in May, and harvests begin in July, extending through the early warm fall weather of the Bay Area in October.
Shell Bean and Green Bean Ragout
From Kelsie Kerr, Standard Fare
1 pound mixed beans, such as haricots verts, wax beans, Romano beans, blue lake beans, etc.
1 pound fresh shelling beans, such as cranberry beans, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, etc.
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped savory
Top and tail the green and wax beans. Cut the larger Romano beans into bite size pieces. Blanch the beans, separately, in salted water till tender. Drain, and immediately spread them out on a sheet pan to cool.
Shell the beans and cook them in just enough water to cover them by an inch. Fresh shelling beans absorb very little water). After they have come to a boil, turn them down to a slow simmer, add some salt and a splash of olive oil. Cook till tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool in their cooking liquid.
Peel and dice the onion. Peel and chop the garlic. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and sauté the onion till soft, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic, savory, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for another couple of minutes. Add the shell beans with 1 cup of their cooking liquid. Bring to a boil.
Next, add the green and wax beans, bring to a boil again. Turn down and cook a couple of more minutes to warm the beans through. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serves six.