Posted by: acooksca | 04/02/2009

The Bean of the Decade

The back-to-nature food movement of the 1970’s installed soy beans as the universal legume of that decade. Next giagnte-beans1a1came the exotica and nouvelle portions of the 80’s and we were introduced to sweet, little Japanese adzuki (also spelled azuki) beans. In the 1990’s we filled our pantry with all things Italian and cannelini beans were must-haves.

Now, in the first decade of the 21st century, in times where we need security coupled with opulence, we have the SUV of beans, the enormous gigandes. In the past few years these massive beans have popped up on restaurant menus and in fancy prepared food shops. Just taste them–you must have more!

This very scenario happened to me. At lunch one recent Tuesday I ordered grilled calamari atop gigandes…creamy and meaty in the same moment, their sweet flavors yielding to the tang of lemon and olive oil. That Friday I enjoyed a whole roasted striped bass accompanied by pancetta and herb accented gigandes. You can’t miss the amazingly satisfying meatiness of this uber-bean.

Where do they come from? While Italy and Spain claim to have similar beans in white kidney beans and Spanish butter beans, these were a disappointment when I searched them out. The gigandes making their appearance in restaurants are probably from Greece, where they are imported already cooked in number 10 cans. I haven’t found smaller cans available.

As a cook, though, I wanted the chance to run my fingers through a display of massive dry beans. I was also curious about how much they expand in cooking. When cooked they are the largest beans I have ever seen… what is their size when dry? How long must it take to cook these enormous specimens of bean hood? Would that massive thickness of bean inside its firm skin take on flavors as they cooked? These were truly exciting questions!

I found dried gigandes on web sources selling for $7.00 a pound plus the equivalent cost in shipping. Seemed too much to pay for shipping when I live in a culinary rich area.  Then I remembered Phipps Country Store and Farm down the coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz in the hamlet of Pescadero. They had them… in fact they grow them! Within the hour we were driving down the coast with a picnic in the trunk on a bean-seeking mission.

I brought home a bevy of different beans but prepared the gigandes first. Like any bean, they benefit from soaking overnight before cooking, particularly as these have a large solid mass to cook through to the center before the exterior disintegrates from over- cooking. As Phipps beans were a new crop, they cooked in just over an hour. Beans dried for more than a couple of months will take longer. Simmer gently in salted water with a peeled, whole onion.

One pound of gigandes yields a lot! We used this batch of gigandes cold with flaked tuna in a salad, lightly smashed with oven roasted tomatoes into an unctuous spread for crostini and to accompany Venison Osso Bucco (see image above). Gigandes however, versatile with a deeply beany flavor, are so solidly satisfying you could hold the meat.

Phipps is happy to take orders for any of their 75 exotic beans:
Phipps Country Store and Farm
2700 Pescadero Rd., Pescadero, CA 94060 (650) 879-0787 (650) 879-1622 (Fax)

Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.



  1. […] visiting the quirky Phipps Country Store a mile or two up Pescadero Creek Road (see the article .) The farm-grown gigante beans are, for me, worth the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: