The Little Bean That Could
The Cuisinettes had the brainstorm that we would become a hotbed of beans, both in the shop and in the online store. But not just any old bags o’ beans drying out on grocery shelves. Nope. We had in mind the gorgeous morsels grown by small independent farmers under the aegis of Zursun. I discovered Lola Weyman, who founded the company in 1985, when a chef at Jean Louis Palladin’s restaurant in DC clued me in that they bought most of their beans from her. A tip like that is a culinary gold nugget.
Lola’s company was the first to offer authentic, US-grown heirloom beans – all nurtured on small family farms in locales including the Snake River Canyon region known as the Magic Valley Growing Area. This spot’s arid climate; rich, well-drained, loamy soil; moderate temperatures; and stable moisture level have made it internationally recognized as environmentally ideal for bean growing. We converted many a bean-tolerater into a bean-lover, as many of our customers will attest, because Zursun beans are heaps better than what you can purchase at most grocery stores.
A Little Helping Of History
In Idaho, where verdant fields of lentils known as the Palouse (from the French word pelouse, meaning “green lawn”), Zursun founder Lola Weyman found several farmers growing unknown lentil varieties. During the late 1980s, Lola began distributing American-grown lentils, to US, Canadian, and European customers. Lola also helped develop new heirloom lentil varieties, like Montana’s Black Beluga, named for its resemblance to caviar; Petite Crimson, smaller and quicker cooking than the standard Red Chief; and an American version of Lentilles du Puy.
Jim Soran, with 60 years of family roots in the Idaho bean industry, acquired Zursun in 2004. Under his guidance, and the skills of 300 independent farmers who grow beans for Jim, their heirloom beans are continually inspected during the growing season for plant health, pure strains, and consistent appearance. Jim’s passionate focus on producing the best-quality beans ensure Zursun Idaho Heirloom Beans are fresh, beautifully cleaned and milled. When the harvest is sold out, as our customers found out, you wait until the next one. There was never an unending supply, as there is from other purveyors.
Little Known Facts About Zursun Beans
One of the most interesting facts I learned from Jim was that beans and other similar legumes do not have to be bought from organic sources, (and they do grow some certified organic bean crops) as the “seed” matures inside the pods of the plants and not in the actual soil. The pod provides protection that flowering seed plants like tomatoes and squashes don’t enjoy. Generally, crop rotation rather than pesticides is used on these farms, because there is a low level of insects in this area of Western Idaho. An even greater plus is that Roundup is not used – soybeans are the main recipient of Roundup – and no soybeans are grown under Zursun.
Don’t Wait A Little – Order Now!
Since we have closed the shop, Karla Hartzell at Zursun is working on developing an online platform for purchasing their beans. She is taking phone orders at 208 733 4024 or you can email her with queries at [email protected] My preference is to order them in boxes of six bags (they can be mixed), as that is how they were packed for the shop. When you get your box, each bean type has a tasty and well tested recipe on the back of the bag. The Cuisinettes know how good those recipes are, because we’ve made most of them ourselves. Drive yourself crazy choosing which gorgeous beans to have packed in those cartons that hold six bags – right here! The site offers you a listing of local vendors that carry their beans or you can click on the Amazon link below.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.