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Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit – Episode 053

Have you considered what NOT having control of your food supply is costing you? In Germany right now, that loss of control has contributed to the deaths of thirty-nine people. The sad thing is that Europe can’t figure out what the problem is. First it was cucumbers, tomatoes, then lettuce, then sprouts, then it wasn’t sprouts, and today it is sprouts again.

The lack of ability to track down this source showcases the problem of allowing your food supply to become such a vast outward-spreading organism in which you have no control. When you take away personal, one-on-one accountability, you lose much more than the ability to hold the grower responsible for the food you consume. You automatically require government intervention in the food growing process and as we have seen, government intervention is seldom logical, quite easily corrupted, and an albatross around the neck of average citizens.


Off The Grid Radio
Ep 053
Released: June 17, 2011

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, as the announcer says, welcome to Off the Grid News – the radio version of I’m Brian Brawdy, as always here with Mr. Bill Heid. Bill, how are you sir?

Bill: I am well. Top of the morning to you, Brian. It’s a beautiful day, as you know, here in Illinois. We’ve got a lot to talk about – especially – you know, Brian, we talk about this “off the grid” – taking some of your life back. With respect to food so often, we have that conversation. How can we not outsource so many things in our life? How can we take some of this back? We see all over in the news – and you and I were talking before the show started – all over in the news there’s stories of people that are no longer alive because they outsourced their food supply. I’m thinking of the E. coli thing in Germany. I know you’ve got some comments about that. But I think, with our guest and what we’re going to talk about today, it really – it can be a life and death thing.

Brian: It most certainly is a life and death thing, unfortunately Bill, for 23 folks in Europe, as you mentioned. There’s a great article in the Christian Science Monitor this morning. This will come as no surprise to you that the politicians now are all pointing fingers and blaming each other because, according to the article, Europe has a zero inability – zero inability – to figure out what is the ultimate cause of the current E. coli outbreak. It’s got people running scared.

Bill: Do you remember on day one it was cukes or whatever it was – a while back, it was cucumbers. Then it was some other vegetable. Then it became sprouts – which ought to scare you again because these are government agencies trying to tell you – and granted, they’re probably doing the best they can, but just inherent in the system is the lack of the ability to track down something like a little bug that’s really very devastating in its effects on the human body. Will government help you? I don’t know. Can they? I’m not sure they always can. There’s a lot of good government employees. A lot of them will try to, but in the greater scheme, how can we take some of this back? How can we get control over our own food supply – it’s been the theme of a lot of our shows, a lot of our conversations that we have privately.

Brian: Bill, I’ll answer your question with what you’ve taught me and what we’ve worked on for all these years now and it’s a simple term – it’s self-reliance.

Bill: It is self-reliance, Brian. You remember a couple of days ago when we went up to Stockton to the home where Kim’s grandparents live and the home that was built in the early 1800s – along the summer kitchen, when you walked in, when I first met Kim and we would go up to see her grandparents, years and years ago – they had something stocked along that summer kitchen. Almost something fairly romantic, and it’s the subject of what we’re talking about today. Ever since I knew them, that’s how they lived, and that’s how these folks lived since before the Civil War – they stocked this particular item that we’re going to talk about today. It was always beautiful. It’s a little, even romantic, I guess you could say, the way it would always be there. I guess today people might be able to dress their house up country knick-knack-wise by having some of these little guys in jars because they’re beautiful. But that was very much a part of their life, the way they lived, from generation to generation, as these Vermont farmers came out and they brought with them beans. They started planting them up there in that garden where you and I were planting potatoes the other day. Beans have been planted there since the 1830s, believe it or not.

Brian: Bill, before we get to today’s guest, I think our listeners would also dig hearing your story – I think it may have been Kim’s dad or granddad that used to say something to you? It would sound to our listeners today to mean one thing, but you knew it meant something totally different. When it was time to prepare a meal, what did he say to you?

Bill: Oh, he would always say – we’d be over there working – as a matter of fact, one summer we were putting up a barn – we built barns ourselves. I would go up into the timber and I would cut a locust pole and I would shave off the bark and I would dig a hole and we’d set the post. I’d tamp in the dirt. Then we’d come in for lunch and do you know what he would say? He’d put some coffee on and he’d say “well let’s go to the store.” When I first got there I thought “why would we want to drive all the way back up to town, 10 miles, to get something to eat?” As it turned out to be, he meant “let’s walk over to the garden and dig something up and cook it up quick.” That’s how we ate all the time when I used to work on the farm with him.

Brian: I tell you, Bill, I think a lot of people today – you hear the stories in the news about they’ll interview some younger kids and they go “where do cows come from?” And they’ll say “from the store.” “Where does milk come from?” “From the supermarket.” I think a lot of people listening to that, and most certainly today’s guest, probably smiled when she heard you tell that story about “let’s head on over to the store” but it really had nothing to do with leaving your property, hopping in the car and going. It had everything to do to go where you were growing some food. Our guest today, Bill, as you know, is the author of a really cool book “Homegrown Whole Grains.” She’s also the author of a dozen cookbooks and travel guides. She has studied and written about grains in the Amish country, in Central Pennsylvania, in southeastern United States and in California. Most recently she studied small-scale rice growing in Thailand, which is actually kind of cool. She now lives in North Carolina. But we have her on today, Bill, because of a book – and people will laugh when I say this is one of my favorite books, but I really have enjoyed learning from this particular book called “Cooking with Dried Beans.” Ladies and gentlemen, please say hello to Sara Pitzer. Sara, how are you?

Sara: I’m just great. How are you?

Brian: I’m doing great. Wasn’t that a cool story about Bill’s and the way they would say “let’s go to the store to grab …” I picture him grabbing Bill by the back of the neck going “come on, let’s go out here.” And then they go out and dig up some stuff and head over to the barn. That’s a pretty cool story, don’t you think?

Sara: It reminds me of pretty much how I grew up, so yeah, I love it.

Bill: We never needed any coupons and every day everything was on sale, drastically discounted. The only thing you had to worry about is stuff going bad if you didn’t eat it quick enough.

Sara: Of course you do remember sweat labor …

Bill: Well, yeah. I don’t count that as money. But it’s something people are unwilling to do today, in most cases. Sweat labor is one of those rare – you’re talking about something that is a museum piece. Brian – in Chicago, at the Museum of Natural History – isn’t there a little thing on sweat labor there that they used to have years and years ago?

Brian: Oh sure.

Bill: Back in the old days, when people actually worked. A special display. It travels around from museum to museum, called “Sweat Labor.” It shows people actually working.

Brian: Yeah, “Sweat Labor” and the subtitle was “and self-reliance.”

Bill: Sweat labor and self-reliance, yeah.

Brian: That we even have to have a museum and any portion of it dedicated to a concept that should be absolutely unique to each and every one of us, in this day and age, Bill – as we’ve said, self-reliance isn’t as big a deal as it used to be. Unfortunately.

Bill: That’s correct. And people that want to grow their own foods – we want to talk with Sara about growing one specific kind of food, one that we’re both very fond of – that’s beans. So, Sara, let’s get into it a little bit and talk about the history of beans. Beans have been around for a while. I think from the self-reliance community’s part, we mentioned beans becoming trendy, but from the self-reliance community, Brian and I always get requests – people like to buy dehydrated food. They like to buy things like that. But a lot of folks say to us “what if I don’t have the money to do x, y, z?” We have to try to come up with ideas that can be pennies on the dollar ideas, as maybe Brian and I would call them. Today’s topic with beans – unbelievable storage, unbelievable shelf life. How long have people been using beans?

Sara: I think it’s like 8,000 or 9,000 years. Pretty much as long as we have artifacts to show us history.

Bill: As long as we’ve got recorded history there’s been the use of beans. In this country, especially, because Brian – you know I told you Kim’s grandfather’s relatives came from that New England area – these were Yankees that came when this land was surveyed early on in the 1830s. That region was a bean region, was it not, Sara?

Sara: I think there’s some bean that’ll grow almost anywhere.

Bill: So these folks brought a lot of beans with them out here from the Vermont area and then planted them out here and it, along with corn – the Indians were raising corn and beans – but that’s how they were living. Their family annals suggest the same thing.

Brian: Sara, we’re going to run to a quick commercial break and then I wanted you to know beforehand that when you walk into the side door, if you will, that Bill’s referencing, all you can see – as far as the eye can see, lining the counter – are jars of beans. Ladies and gentlemen, come on back after this commercial break. We’re here with Sara Pitzer, author of “Cooking with Dried Beans” and also “Homegrown Whole Grains” here at Off the Grid Radio.

[0:09:59 – 0:14:15 break]

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the home of a different paradigm – Off the Grid News – the radio version of I’m Brian Brawdy, as always along with Mr. Bill Heid. Today, Bill, our guest is talking to us about a particular substance, packed full of B vitamins, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, B6, folic acid, minerals, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium – the list just goes on and on and on, about what I believe to be a superfood.

Bill: I think it is a superfood and I think it’s a superfood that should be in everybody’s house. But it’s become more trendy – Sara, we were talking about the trendy nature of it – why do you think this has picked up, especially in some of these posh restaurants? What’s happened recently, do you think, that’s made it such an important – why’d the heirloom bean come back?

Sara: I’m not perfectly sure. I have a couple of theories. First of all, now that I live in the South, I am aware that beans never left. That’s obviously what they ate when they were dirt poor and there wasn’t anything else and we cultivated a taste for it. Now, of course, southern cooking has become trendy. Also, they just taste good. How much lobster can you cook and you begin to realize there’s no more lobster?

Bill: Yeah, you need something with it. And for our listeners, we’re not talking about the thousands and thousands of acres of commercially-produced limas or beans that you’d buy in the store, we’re talking about the specialty niche – especially what’s becoming a specialty niche in upper-scale restaurants, and that’s very fresh, heirloom beans. As a matter of fact, there are – and I know, Brian, you’ve dined at some of these restaurants – there’s restaurants that charge $250 for meals that feature heirloom beans. Did you guys know that is going on? I know out on the West Coast there’s some places that do that, and on the East Coast as well.

Sara: I tried to order from online that I couldn’t get around here and didn’t because they were so expensive, so I can believe it.

Bill: And a lot of times, I think with beans people don’t really realize what you can do with them. They’re going to sit there on a shelf, looking pretty, Brian – like at the Parker house in Stockton – beans sitting there. But at some point, you’ve got to take them out and use them. Do you want to talk a little bit about using beans and how do you get beans ready? Some ideas there?

Sara: Oh sure. I read a great line somewhere. It said “beans last a long time but they are not immortal.” They do eventually get too old to be very good. So if you’ve got ‘em, use ‘em. They shouldn’t sit in the jar forever. They should get used. The rest of it is almost embarrassingly simple. You wash them. Somewhere there’s a story in an old, sea-faring novel about the cook on board who didn’t know enough to wash the beans. You wash them because they can have dirt on them and you pick over them a little bit because they could have little stones in there and you break a tooth.

Bill: Sara, could I interrupt you a second, and Brian? Just to give you a little flavor – no pun intended – about Kim’s grandfather and what we used to do with these beans – if I started to wash them too much, he would call that “removing the selenium.” He would say “you don’t want to wash them too much.” In other words, he liked a little mud on his food. I don’t know if that’s a Yankee tradition or if that’s something they do in the South. But you’re right, he’d rinse them off but he really wasn’t very careful. I think that’s what you’re saying – you want to clean them up a little bit.

Brian: Sara, I want a quote from your book and you’re quoting Julia Child when she called it “the rooty-toot-toot problem” – there’s a little half-way point, isn’t there? Between Bill’s granddad saying “don’t cook them too much” and Julia’s belief that there’s a certain way to cook them to cut down on the “rooty-toot-toot” problem?

Bill: Maybe the rooty-toot-toot problem, Brian, maybe that was the afternoon entertainment as we continued to work. I don’t know. Maybe he was setting me up.

Brian: Maybe that’s why they cost $250 in some restaurants – it’s like dinner and a floor show. [laughter] I’m sorry, go ahead Sara.

Sara: Anyway … you wash them – you have to be your own judge of how much. The standard, and there are ways around this, but really the simplest thing to do is just soak them for a while – overnight is nice – in a cool place. Typically, you pour the soaking water off – some people think you lose nutrients but other people think that if you don’t you’ll have poison. Then you put some fresh water on them and you simmer them till they’re tender. Then you do whatever you were going to do.

Bill: Are we talking 12 hours’ worth of soaking or two hours’ worth of soaking? I go to bed at 9 o’clock at night or 10 or something – should I put them in and then in the morning I rinse them off and get ready to simmer them out? Or what should you do there?

Sara: Both possibilities. What you’re describing is certainly the easiest and I feel sure the most traditional way. But for everybody in a hurry, you can also bring them to a boil from the raw, dry state; off the heat; put the lid on and let them stand for an hour. Then go back to the simmering process.

Bill: I’m wondering too, even prior to boiling – and I don’t know if either of you guys have read anything or heard anything about that – the restaurants that are doing these high-end gourmet things – they’re buying very fresh beans. They like to have beans that were from that year’s harvest. Do we lose …

Sara: Lots of luck. Where I live …

Bill: Most beans take a long time … most people are storing beans end up getting thrown in hot warehouses and silos before they make it to market, don’t you agree? Isn’t it kind of a long haul from Point A to Point B?

Sara: Usually I think it is and the fresher they are the more they tend to cost, I think. But I can go in to a produce stand 10 miles down the road and there’ll be a big basket of what’s called “new crop” pintos. I think if you’re looking for it, you can track it down and it doesn’t have to cost as much as a lobster.

Bill: I think you just touched on something too, that’s somewhat magical in the way – if you’re in the South, the southern agrarians used to write years ago about trying to buy food from people that you knew. If there was a way to buy food from people that you had a personal relationship with, that’s part of what community was, that’s part of what safety was, that’s part of what nutrition was. By all means, if we can buy fresh beans from people that we know, that’s the single most important key, I think, to working with beans, wouldn’t you say, Sara?

Sara: In that regard, yeah. I would direct you to the farmer’s markets.

Bill: Start to create – again, people are always saying “everything costs money. I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do that – it costs money.” What can you tell us to do that doesn’t cost any money? Here’s a good one – go start visiting farmer’s markets. Yeah, you’ve got a little gas going on there, maybe on a Saturday morning, but start talking to different producers. Strike up a relationship. Get to know them. Maybe buy some samples. Then you’ve got a friend. If you’re ever going to need a friend in a pinch you can call them directly and go the farmer’s market and say “can you bring me over some beans? I’ll take 50 pounds” or whatever it is you’re trying to negotiate.

Sara: You can buy them fresh and dry them yourself.

Bill: You can buy them fresh and dry them. That’s a nugget, Sara, right there, I think. For people that are always looking for some way – and you mentioned earlier, dirt cheap. Why did people in the South use them? They were dirt cheap but they were healthy and dirt cheap at the same time. Can you imagine a substance on earth that’s both healthy and dirt cheap at the same time? We keep overlooking things like this because there’s a little prep time or something with it.

Sara: There really isn’t that much prep time if you just start ahead. It cooks while you’re doing something else.

Brian: Do you know what, Bill and Sara? It almost reminds of when people come up to us, Bill, like they did a couple of weeks back when we were in Dallas for the survival convention and they go “I’m not really sure I could ever learn how to live off the grid.” It’s the same thing of why now beans have become more popular again. It’s not that you’re learning a new skill, it’s something humans have been doing for thousands of years. We’re simply suggesting that you may want to reawaken that ability to live off the grid. You may want to reawaken the latent ability to be self-reliant and reawaken what Sara said in the beginning of the interview was “it never left the South,” but reawakened the understanding of exactly what preparing and cooking your own beans can do for you. Sara, we’re going to run to a quick commercial break and then we’re going to come back. I want to talk a little bit about some of the recipes that you have in “Cooking with Dried Beans.” Ladies and gentlemen, come on back, you’re going to not want to miss the next segment. Some great recipes that you can use while cooking with dried beans. Come on back after this quick commercial break.

[0:24:08 – 0:28:22 break]

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Off the Grid Radio here at Also want to make mention quickly of our parent company, Solutions from Science, and that Mr. Bill Heid travels the world – most certainly travels the country and the world – looking for those solutions from science to some of the headaches that we have today. Most certainly, Bill, when you’ve traveled to study seeds, when you’ve traveled to study sprouts, when you’ve traveled to study beans or solar or wind or the like – as you travel around the country now, don’t you think more and more people are fired up? Did you ever really think we’d do a radio show about beans? Aren’t more and more people fired up about rekindling that sense of self-reliance?

Bill: As you mentioned, Brian, at the Dallas survival and self-reliance show, how many people wanted to talk about things like this. Five or ten years ago it just wasn’t there. Today there’s a resurgence of this kind of thing. I think some of it’s on the health side. If you look at something like – there’s studies on black beans and red beans, loaded with protein and almost no cholesterol. I think they did a study one time, guys, where they gave people beans to eat – ½ a cup a day or something – and tested cholesterol. Beans even had an effect on cholesterol. Now, always see your doctor, this isn’t medical advice, but beans because of their fiber … I like beans, being diabetic, they tend to mitigate against rising glucose levels for me. There’s a lot of good reasons. I’m talking about some very pragmatic ones and we talked about the reasons these posh restaurants want them, because of the taste and fresh. Exotic beans are really in the news. Like you said, if you go to a restaurant that features this, you’re going to pay a pretty big chunk of change to have a bean-featured meal. But there’s ways to take these beans and cook them at home. It’s low-cost, dirt cheap. You go from a $250 meal to the phrase “dirt cheap.” It doesn’t seem like it belongs in the same sentence – those two phrases seem to be antithetic to each other. But the common denominator there, guys, is beans. Let’s chat a little bit about some bean recipes. I was going to mention some beans, Sara, because as Brian said I have been out looking for beans to try to find an assortment of beans. We put together a fun bunch of beans that we thought would make a good assortment. We found a grower – we think is the only grower of his kind – in California, that has a secret bean farm that very few people, except some of these chefs, know about. We got our nose in the door a little bit and started to make some arrangements so we could buy a few of what’s left of some of the crops. But anyway, Sara, Christmas limas – does that resonate with you at all?

Sara: I think … it’s the red and white and it’s lima shaped. It is, I think, an heirloom bean and I think can be cooked fresh, if you can get it, as opposed to dried. Otherwise would be cooked about the same as everything else. I think it loses a good bit of its color in the cooking.

Bill: It might lose a little bit of that red but it still has distinctive burgundy markings, but is not quite as bright, you’re right about that.

Sara: I think you wouldn’t need to do much else to it to make it tasty. It’s its own thing.

Bill: I’ve got another one and I wanted to have a meaty, creamy flavor. This is sort of chef talk, but we picked up some good Mother Stallards as well.

Sara: That’s foreign to me.

Bill: They don’t require a whole lot of soaking so you can do something a little quicker with them. A lot of folks add bay leaf and stuff. We also picked up – we loved the Hutterite bean. Has that one … Hutterite looks kind of boring on the surface.

Sara: I’m not sure – what color is it?

Bill: The Hutterite one’s kind of a dark bean. Doesn’t really look like too much.

Sara: Yeah, yeah. Have you tasted it?

Bill: Oh, they’re unbelievably good.

Sara: You are definitely into the exotics.

Bill: These are very exotic. The reason I like the Hutterites – I’ll tell you – the Hutterites have kind of a buttery taste. My kids would never eat limas because they were so dry and I had to throw tons of lard on them to get them to eat them. But Hutterites have a natural buttery taste that, if you’ve never had one, there’s nothing quite like a Hutterite. These are all – some of the stuff we’re looking for is – we want to be practical and have some practical things. I’ll bet Jacob’s Cattle you’ve heard of?

Sara: Oh yeah.

Bill: Tell us a little bit about Jacob’s Cattle. I know Jacob’s Cattle is pretty popular.

Sara: To me, you can do anything you want to with it because it doesn’t have stand out taste of its own – to my taste. I’m not going talk about anybody else’s palate. Again, I think it’s – I wouldn’t put it in chili or something like that. I would do something with a little butter, maybe a little warm milk – creamy.

Bill: I think these beans – what I liked about Jacob’s Cattle was an interesting story about them. In the Prince Edward Island area there were Indians that had given these beans to Joseph Clark who was the first white child born in Maine. These beans, the Jacob’s Cattle, were very prized by the Indians and that was their very special way of welcoming someone – giving them beans. Beans for them were like gold because you relied on your beans to get from one year to the next. You would save – and again, we’re talking about ancient tradition where in the old days you would save some of your seed and with heirloom beans you can do that. You saved some of your seed and you plant them next year. The Indians – they were going to starve if they didn’t do that. Jacob’s Cattle – I’m just kind of droning on, but Jacob’s Cattle has a special place in my heart because it’s one of those – it’s like a gift between an indigenous people to people that were coming in and it was a gift of love.

Sara: And you know they wouldn’t have done anything fancy with them.

Bill: Yeah. We picked up some Eye of the Goat – another kind of a cowpea bean – that’s a little strange. They look like an eye of a goat – gray with a dark stripe they have on them. We have some of those. I don’t know, Brian, have you ever read anything about Eye of the Goat, Brian?

Brian: No, I haven’t read anything about Eye of the Goat.

Sara: But it’s a cowpea.

Bill: It is, it is.

Brian: Then why didn’t they call it the eye of the cow?

Sara: [laughs] I won’t touch that one.

Brian: OK. Never mind. Just checking. Inquiring minds want to know.

Bill: Eye of the Goat is a great chili bean, by the way, just so you know. They’re very rich in color and sweet flavor. They also hold up very nicely through the cooking process. That’s another one – we’d read about that one in a food and wine magazine. Like you said, Sara, these are trendy. Food and wine magazines talking about Eye of the Goat beans.

Sara: And I’ll also point out, they are not easily available unless you are in a very metropolitan area.

Bill: Yeah, these beans you can’t go into a grocery store and get the ones that we’re talking about. There are beans you can go get. I’ve got a couple of other ones I’m just going to throw out at you guys and you can tell me if you’ve ever heard of them. This is almost like a game show here. It’s like a Japanese game show. If you miss, you hit a button and you go down into a tub of beans or something. Snowcap – ever heard of Snowcap?

Sara: Never.

Bill: It’s a cranberry bean. It looks like a cranberry. Snowcaps – they used them in New England chowders for a long time. They’re still putting them in New England chowders. Snowcap are some beans that were brought out here, as well as Jacob’s Cattle, by Kim’s family, Brian. Snowcaps are part of those – that’s an old heirloom classic. They use them out here too. A lot of folks in this area – you probably saw a lot of deer when we were going back and forth from Thomson up to Stockton. They’ll make venison stews or venison chilies and they’ll use a lot of Snowcaps in there as well.

Brian: I suspect a lot of people’s first bumping into beans, if you will – I remember as a little boy my mom used to make chili all the time. I loved chili with those beans. We’re going to ahead and run to a quick commercial break. When we come back, she’s agreed to stay for the final segment, we’re going to have Sara Pitzer. We’re going to talk a little more about cooking with dried beans, but also touch on her new book “Homegrown Whole Grains” which is a pretty cool book as well. Ladies and gentlemen, come on back after the break. Quick commercial and we will be right back with you.

[0:38:09 – 0:42:23 break]

Brian: Welcome back to Off the Grid Radio. As the announcer says, getting you ready to prepare for the worst. Bill, you look at the headlines going on in Europe about this E. coli breakout. We have to – we have to – become more self-reliant when it comes to our food. We have to become more self-reliant when it comes to everything we do, in my opinion, but golly, all you’ve got to do is read the headlines. You and I aren’t making this stuff up. If you had a chance to read Food Shock, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Then, ripped from those headlines, Bill, we have a solution – although it’s a little more from the soil than from science – we’ve got a solution for that. Today, the author helping us with that solution, is Sara Pitzer.

Bill: And we’re trying to – we are preparing for some hard times. I think any reasonable person that looks at the economic data, that looks at the headlines and says that there’s trouble brewing. I mean, Brian, even James Carville the other day said “trouble. Civil unrest.” This isn’t a joke. This is James Carville – “it’s the economy, stupid” guy that got President Clinton elected. He’s not messing around. He knows what’s going on. So we’re preparing for the worst but today we’re preparing for the worst with the best – how about that as a little catchphrase? We’re preparing for the worst, with the best. One of the best things you can do is start to get a stash of beans, I think. Dried beans, fresh beans, you can dry them yourself, as we’ve been talking about. You can make soups, you can put them in salads – there are so many things. We’ve been talking with Sara about some of the beans that we had mentioned. I had another one that I had picked out as one of the ones that I liked, was the Black Valentine – a pretty common bean too. It’s a classic for gardeners. Any comments on Black Valentines, Sara?

Sara: Not a one. I thought I might recognize it but the name does not …

Bill: It’s kind of a bush bean. It’s pretty staple. What I like about Black Valentine is it doesn’t take much space, it doesn’t take much of anything. You plant them and they just grow like crazy. Black Valentine’s another great bean.

Sara: Could you put them in a raised bed or a window box?

Bill: You can put them in a raised bed or a window box. You just plant them in rows. You don’t need trellising or anything because they’re a bush bean.

Sara: So you could grow your own?

Bill: You can grow your own right in your own backyard. You can just put them in a flower pot and grow a few beans there and have some. If you want some for salads – there’s another idea too – you can always pinch beans off before they’re ready and throw them in salads or dunk them in dips and stuff. There’s a lot of ways to eat beans that really are good for you. As long as you’re using your own or buying from some farmer that you know or some folks that you know in your community, you’re kind of taking back a little chunk of your life and your minimizing your exposure – as Brian mentioned too – with things like the E. coli issues that come from big ag – a lot of times from big ag and big distribution systems. You take a little chunk of your life back. Let’s talk about cooking them up a little bit more. Brian, didn’t you guys want to talk a little bit about recipes? We talked about nutrition, right? We talked about how good they are for you. They’re full of fiber, they’re full of all this stuff that you had mentioned. A true superfood.

Brian: It is. And one of the things I love about Sara’s books – and I may have said this during the break – but Sara, I went ahead to and downloaded the digital version of “Cooking with Dried Beans,” so I have it right on my iPad. I set it up on the counter and I’m able to go right through. You’ve got some great recipes. Some of them Bill touched on. A lot of people will recognize Boston Baked Beans, or they’ll recognize hummus or pureed bean soup, split pea soup for that matter. Black bean soup was another favorite I had growing up in Virginia. Even minestrone. What I dig about your book is the ability – and the directions are pretty straightforward. You did a great job!

Sara: Well, thanks.

Brian: And the same, I thought, of “Homegrown Whole Grains: Learn to Grow, Harvest, Store, Grind and Cook with Nine of the Most Popular Whole Grains.” I found your book at as well.

Sara: That book had its origins back as far as the beans in its original version. It was something like “Grow, Harvest and Cook Your Own.” Then the revision, which is what you would have, changed its title a good bit and added grains that we hadn’t even heard of back then and tried to bring stuff down to scale so it would conceivably be manageable by people with backyards instead of the field and the commune.

Brian: One of the things we touch on, Sara, in Food Shock – why 2011 might be the single most important year – and Bill, I’d say we got some great reviews when we were at the survival conference in Dallas over Food Shock – is when you talk about growing it in your backyard you don’t need a 400-acre spread. Bill, I read a report the other day that said you get 10 good square yards, you can jump start with some herbs, some sprouts, some beans. You can have a tidy little garden in just a little bit of space.

Bill: And beans – the thing about beans, for people who haven’t really done a lot with beans – you plant beans and what you got, for most folks, if they’re not ready, is more beans than what you bargained for. Beans just keep coming. So you go out and pick beans and if you don’t want a rusty feel to your leaves go out and pick your beans early in the morning before it gets too hot, take your beans off. But the next day there’d be more beans and then more beans and then more beans. A lot of times, we’ll plant a row one week. Maybe a week later we plant another row and another row. That way we’re eating fresh beans all summer long. The stuff that we want to harden off we let go and we don’t eat. That’s the stuff that we’ll use for soup beans later on. We’ll be eating these beans fresh, we’ll be eating them like green beans – any of these you can take and eat prematurely as green beans because you just don’t let them mature out. I don’t know of a crop that you can have that has as much variety or latitude for use – maybe corn, but I don’t even think corn has as many uses beans. This is a true superfood.

Sara: Corn takes more space, realistically. It also attracts raccoons.

Bill: It does. Raccoons won’t come and eat your beans. Most people are too lazy to come and pick your beans so it’s not really a threat to anybody.

Brian: Is that true? Raccoons don’t dig beans?

Sara: I’ve not seen it but I don’t know that.

Brian: That’s good news!

Bill: They don’t like beans. They’re going to eat your corn though. That’s one thing they’re going to do.

Brian: Alright, Sara, we only have a few minutes left so what I would like to do is, we’re always talking about off-the-grid type of mindsets. When we talk about beans it’s like “they taste great. We’ve got great recipes.” But they’re really, as Bill said, they’re a superfood. They’re packed full of nutrients. When we talked about leaving a little bit of dirt in the water, it comes from the earth. Just like whole grains, in your new book “Homegrown Whole Grains,” it’s a great thing to be able to plant, to harvest these things and what I love about your books is you teach us how to use those after we harvest them in our own backyard.

Sara: It’s really pretty simple. I live near Asheville, North Carolina and up there – this might be good for your listeners to know – people are – you know that space between the curb and the sidewalk in front of a house? They’re tilling that up and planting things in it.

Brian: Wow!

Sara: Yeah! So you could put some beans in there.

Bill: You can plant beans anywhere.

Brian: That’s certainly off-the-grid, Bill, if you find a plot adjacent to your property and you can grow on it, what a great idea.

Bill: As you long as you don’t run into any government issues where you’re violating some state or local law, or North Carolina’s law. But I think that’s a great idea. You can plant them anywhere. You don’t want some inspector coming in and fining you $5,000 for illegal beans, Brian.

Brian: In the People’s Republic of Illinois, where we live, I probably would be surprised if they didn’t. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, but it’s time for us to run. WE have had the whole hour this morning with Sara Pitzer. She is the author of one of my favorite books when it comes to cooking with dried beans – obviously the title “Cooking with Dried Beans.” But also, you can check her out on, “Homegrown Whole Grains: Learn how to Harvest, Store, Grind and Cook with Nine of the Most Important, Popular Whole Grains.” Sara, we’re going to have to have you back when we do a whole grains segment. But thank you so much for joining us today.

Sara: It has been a good time.

Brian: Very good. Thank you as always. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to Off the Grid Radio. Be sure to email us with questions, comments, critiques at [email protected]. Of course you can find us on Facebook – one of the fastest growing Facebook pages when it comes to off-the-grid living – oddly enough, title Of course you can follow us on Twitter @offgridnews. On behalf of Bill Heid and everyone at Solutions from Science – our parent company – and the entire crew at Off the Grid News, please keep the suggestions coming because this was a perfect example – we’ve heard from a lot of folks they wanted to do a show on beans and we listen here at Off the Grid News. Thank you so very much. An hour is a huge chunk, a very valuable chunk of your day. It truly is an honor to be able to spend it with you.

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