Let’s begin the new year by cooking something new: Anasazi beans. These heirloom beans have an interesting history. The beans shown here are from a farmer’s market in Taos, New Mexico, which is the closest town to the Taos Pueblos. My brother’s family purchased the beans while on a cross-country driving trip from California. Along the way they visited several American Native Indian cliff dwelling sites and ruins. I made a hearty soup with the beans.
These beans are known by several names including “Cave Beans,” Aztec beans, New Mexico appaloosa (due the the variegated color of the beans) and Jacob’s Cattle. A private company, Adobe Mills, renamed and trademarked the beans as Anasazi Beans.
My brother says,
We got those beans at the farmers market in Taos, NM, closest town to the Taos Pueblo. The beans are variety Anasazi which are a descendant of the beans used by the Anasazi Indians (Pueblos) hundreds of years ago. The Anasazi disappeared before the white people arrived, but we know they are the same beans because the same were found in ancient pots from archaeological digs of Anasazi sites. So the beans are a very historical thing. I made mine into a bean soup. Soaked overnight then cooked with vegetables and chicken broth. Turned out very tasty.
I read several similar stories regarding the origins of the beans on the internet. One story goes that in 1980’s, (some stories give the 1950’s), a group of archaeologists from UCLA stumbled upon a clay pot sealed with pine tar containing the beans while excavating for Pygmy elephants.The carbon dating of the beans dated them to 1500 A.C. Several of the beans sprouted and because the source for today’s beans. While it is general considered that beans won’t germinate after 50 years, this does trace the history of the beans to hundreds of years ago.
Anasazi is the Navajo’s word for “the ancient ones.” Due to their pleasing speckled coloring – deep maroon flecked with white – Anasazi beans are sometimes called Appaloosa beans. The Puya cliff dwellings showing the homes carved high into the steep hills must have been a formidable place to live.
Here are some facts about the beans:
- The kidney-shaped beans are related to pinto beans, but they are milder and sweeter and more mealy,
- They are considered to be heirloom beans because the seeds are from stock which is over 50 years old,
- The Anasazi beans can be substituted for any recipe calling for pinto beans, they are especially tasty in Southwestern cuisine dishes such as refried beans and baked beans,
- After cooking, the beans turn a light reddish-brown,
- The beans have about 75% less flatulence properties — oligosaccharides — than other dried beans, thus are easier to digest,
- Although these beans should still be soaked, they cook much in quicker times than other dried beans — after soaking they cook in an hour or so,
- After soaking, I found that the beans tripled in volume,
- Nutritionally, the beans are high in protein and fiber and are rich in calcium, potassium and iron. Anasazi beans also contain lectins, which researchers are studying for many health benefits such as impacting chronic diseases and cancers with potential anti-tumor, immuno-modulatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial abilities.
- The beans, like other legumes also enrich the soil they are grown in, are commonly grown in tandem with crops such as corn.
Soak the beans
These beans should be soaked prior to cooking. Sort them well — I found several small rocks in the package of beans — and discard spoiled beans or agricultural matter. There are two methods to soak the beans:
- Cover in cold water (at least several inches over the top of beans) and let set overnight,
- For quick soaking, in a large pot, cover with several inches of water. Bring to a boil and then boil for 2 minutes. Turn off an let set for at least an hour.
Then drain and rinse the beans in a colander in cold water to remove oligosaccharides which cause gas.
Making the soup
This soup is a one-pot recipe. After the beans are soaked by either method; add all the ingredients and simmer in a stock pot on the stove for an hour until the beans are tender. I added chopped onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper and seasonings — chipotle chili powder, cumin, coriander and pepper. For flavor I added ham (although this could be omitted) and chicken stock. Vegetable stock could be used, too.
This is an easy recipe and made a very tasty soup. These beans are a keeper. I am sure I can purchase these beans from on-line sources in the future; let’s see if I can find them locally, too. Thanks to my brother’s family for bringing the beans!
Anasazi Bean Soup
- 1-1/2 cups dried Anasazi beans
- 1/2 cup chopped ham (optional, omit for vegan version)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium or two small jalapeno peppers, chopped finely
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3 cups (or two cans) chicken broth (for vegan version, substitute vegetable stock)
- 3 cups water or more
Method and Steps:
- Pre-sort the beans, removing any foreign objects and spoiled beans.
- Soak the beans: (quick method). Place beans in large stock pot and cover with 2 inches water (about 8 cups). Bring to boil on stove and boil, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Turn burner off and let set for at least one hour. Pour beans in large colander and drain, rinse with cold water.
- To make soup: Add beans back to large stock pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for one hour until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add more water if the water evaporates.