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A priceless heirloom of baciccia beans

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Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013 1:18 pm

Passed from my grandfather to my dad to my husband, three generations, a true heirloom, a priceless gift — no, not a gold watch, silver coins or a diamond tie clip but baciccia bean seeds.

Baciccia beans are delicious, tender green beans characterized by their vibrant green color and velvety texture. Unlike other fresh beans, they are classified as heirloom plants which mean that they have been reproduced for generations without cross-breeding.

The term heirloom is often associated with tomatoes, but it is appropriate for many fruits and vegetables. In fact, the baciccia beans that my husband grows in our garden are from seeds that were brought from Italy by my grandfather! Every spring he plants a special crop just for me and proudly delivers handfuls to me fresh from the garden.

Many people, even Italians are not familiar with this wonderful bean. The baciccia comes from Liguria and is little known elsewhere in Italy. The name, baciccia is actually a diminutive for Giovanni Battista which means John the Baptist. It is a long green bean that grows on a short bush. The subtle, sweet taste makes this a very likable bean. Due to its obscurity, it is often confused with a pole or Romano bean. Green bush beans are also referred to as “string beans” because of the fiber found along the seams of the pods. Sweeter than a Blue Lake and more delicate than a Romano, baciccia beans can be eaten raw when small, steamed for just a few minutes and eaten crisp-tender or incorporated into most favorite green bean recipes. If you do not have your own inheritance of beans, not to worry; we are so lucky to live in the San Joaquin valley with countless descendants of Ligurian farmers that you can find bushels at local Farmers Markets or stands like The Fruit Bowl on Waterloo Road. They are extremely popular, though, so be prepared for a sell out when the first harvest arrives. I discovered for the price of a smile, Ralph Luchetti of The Fruit Bowl will write your name and number on his cardboard “baciccia Customer List” and call when they become available.

Carrot, potato & baciccia bean salad

Salad

1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds

¼ pound fresh baciccia beans, rinsed, tips removed and cut in half

2 avocados

Dressing

¼ cup pesto

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Cook potato in lightly salted boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes until it breaks easily when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and drain.

Meanwhile, cook chopped carrots in lightly salted boiling water for eight to 10 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and drain.

Steam beans for about three minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl. Let cool to room temperature. Peel and chop avocado and combine with the other vegetables.

In a small bowl, combine pesto, olive oil and salt. Pour over vegetables and toss. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve at room temperature or chill and serve cold.

— Source: www.atavolatogether.com

Claudia Pruett was raised in Saratoga. She is an entrepreneur, chef and community volunteer. She is married to Greg and they have three children. She enjoys cooking for friends and Bikram Yoga.

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