Look a handful of beans! Just looking at them makes me oddly happy, as though I traded a prize cow for them. They aren’t magical (I think) just a heritage bean called tiger’s eye* – one of the diverse group of new world beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) that includes the ubiquitous kidney, navy, and black turtle beans.
Although tiger’s eye beans originate from Argentina, I took these ones out from my local library. The Victoria Public Library has a seed library that has been in operation for just over a year. I think this seed library was the first one in Canada, now others on the mainland have been started. I hope seed library’s spread as it is a great way to create local sustainable food system. The deal is I grow my tiger’s eye beans then return a handful to the library in the fall. All the tiger’s eye beans get mixed together ensuring ongoing genetic diversity and a bean variety selected for this area.
I love the idea of a public seed library especially when there is constant news of attempts to keep seed saving out of the hands of individuals like the laws the European Union have been trying to put in place restricting seed distribution and diversity. Or, according to the Huffington Post: “The US has been trying to force El Salvador to use Monsanto’s GMO seeds rather than their own indigenous seeds or risk loosing nearly $300 million in aid.”
According to Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington’s ‘Heirloom Beans‘ cookbook (which I also took out from the library) tiger’s eye beans fall apart when cooked making them ideal for making refried beans or adding to chili. There is way more diversity in beans that what I can get at the hippy-est bulk store and I’m looking forward to trying them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about growing beans, so expect a few more blog posts on them.
* they are also called ‘eye of the tiger’ which has caused me to roam around humming the song of the same name since I got them.