Something To Grow On

It’s legume city at the farmers market these days. There are more green beans than I knew existed: Romano beans, jade beans, Kentucky wonder beans, Blue Lake beans. And there’s always something to shell whether it’s cannellini beans freed from their soft white pods or the gorgeous magenta and white mottled cranberry beans.

A week ago, I spotted a new legume at the market. Catalan Farms had a box of very small green pods. The beans looked almost like uncured olives or tiny green acorns.

I asked about them and learned that these mini pods hold garbanzo beans or chick peas.

Now I’ve eaten plenty of garbanzo beans before but nearly every one came from a can. I’d never considered what a garbanzo bean looked like before it was canned, and although it’s called either a bean or a pea, I never imagined it in a pod.

This is what I love about the farmers market — the discovery of what food really is, what it looks before its processed, and the work required, at times, to make a plant into food.

Work is the operative word for garbanzo beans. I generally find shelling beans oddly satisfying, even double-shelled fava beans. But garbanzos were quite labor intensive and tested my patience. There was a lot of shelling for a pretty meager pile of beans.

The un-shelled garbanzos weren’t uniform in color or size. Some of them looked as I’d expected, while others were especially tiny, green colored instead of tan, and wrinkled like a brain.

I just boiled them until they seemed done and perhaps I should have followed more of a recipe because I didn’t really love the taste. Only the beans that looked like fully formed garbanzos actually tasted like garbanzos (if you happen on fresh garbanzos, buy the more yellow-y pods, not the bright green ones).

But I loved what I learned from the process and I’ll never look at a can of garbanzo beans the same again.

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