It’s a what kind of bean, you say?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2013

In Tucson we again went to the Desert Museum – because we really liked it last year and because our son hadn’t been there. It is a wonderful showcase of the desert’s flora and fauna (including fish, reptiles and bugs) and the Sonoran Desert certainly isn’t barren. It is rich in plant and animal life. We had a two-hour guided tour – just us – by one of their fantastic volunteers. He said they took a three-day-a-week, six-month course before they started giving tours and interpreting various exhibits. The museum is located outside Tucson in the Saguaro National Park. Although there are some indoor exhibits, most of the museum is outside with the plants and animals in their native space.

Any white bean works as a substitute for tepary bean.

Any white bean works as a substitute for tepary bean.

Another place we went again was the Native Seeds store. They do a great job in seed saving and promoting gardening in the desert. I bought some tepary beans and my husband bought some for seed to try back home. He found a book in the 4th St. downtown district, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land – Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty. The author, Gary Nabhan, farms near the Mexican border in southern Arizona. He looks at centuries of lessons learned by desert farmers around the world and suggests ideas for use in our present “global warming” or as he prefers to call it, “climate uncertainty.”

He has several pages of varieties of vegetables and fruits that are heat and drought tolerant. There is a whole section on tepary beans. I asked the knowledgeable staff at the Native Seeds store. They are to be planted with the spring rains and mature when the rains end. They are easiest to harvest by pulling up the whole plant. They can fail to produce if the rain continues as it frequently does here in the South. I plan to try them on a dry slope that will get the spring rains and will dry out even if the rains come on in the summer. Tepary beans are “the world’s most drought tolerant domesticated bean.” They are an ancient bean of the Akimel O’Odham and Tohono O’Odham tribes of the Sonoran desert of Arizona and Mexico. We’ll see if we produce any next year. In the meantime, we can enjoy those we bought in Tucson. You can use another dried white bean as I know of no local source for tepary beans. If you would like to order some beans, just use the website

Our trip ended with a visit to the Tucson Tamale Company. The tamales were the best I have ever eaten. They are all done fresh with wonderful fillings of peppers, cheese, black beans, squash and corn. I would go back to Tucson just for the tamales!

This soup is really tasty so give it a try. I cooked the beans probably an hour longer than suggested since I just could not get the beans soft enough. I used fresh herbs instead of dried, so just use more fresh herbs in the recipe to make up for the dried.



Serves 4

1 cup tepary beans, soaked overnight and rinsed

1/3 cup diced yellow onion

¼ cup peeled and diced carrots

¼ cup diced celery

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ½ quarts chicken stock

¼ teaspoon dry basil

Pinch dry oregano

Pinch dry thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch black pepper

½ teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon lemon juice

In a large saucepan add soaked beans and cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for three hours. Drain.

In a separate large saucepan, sauté onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil until onions begin to turn translucent.

Add beans and stir. Add stock, basil, oregano and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, or until beans are soft.

Beans should begin to fall apart and thicken broth.

Once soup begins to thicken, add remaining ingredients. Simmer briefly.

Keep cool. It’s hot!