Exceptionally-flavoured, giant Greek beans from Oliveology
The virtues of just-picked fruit and veg, fresh rather than dried herbs and spices, meat cooked on the bone rather than pre-packaged (or anything pre-cooked or packaged, for that matter) are widely known and acknowledged. The importance of freshness when it comes to store cupboard ingredients, however, is often overlooked—necessities, yes, but surely the quality varies little shop to shop, producer to producer?
The dried wares at Oliveology, however, are as high in quality and as carefully sourced by the discerning Marianna as any fresh ingredient you’re likely to come across—and it shows. “These beans are harvested in the autumn and, even though they are dried, it is rare in Greece that we would eat them any later than around a year after they were harvested,” she explains. “It affects the quality: both in terms of texture, and taste, so we’re sure to refresh our stock with each harvest.”
Giant beans (both in name and in nature) are a staple across Greece, but those produced in the northernmost regions of Kastoria, Florina and Prespa are particularly revered, prized for their exceptional flavour, thin skins and quicker cooking time. In fact, beans grown within those regions have been granted PGI status, acknowledging the geographical factors that contribute to their exceptional flavour.
Climatic conditions and unique soil
“While these particular beans don’t technically have that status, they are from an organic cooperative of small farms very nearby, so benefit from the same climatic conditions and unique soil that’s so good for growing them,” Marianna continues. “I had tried a few suppliers, but wasn’t satisfied with the quality, so I was very happy when I found this producer. The beans we get from them are truly excellent.”
Soft and creamy, they’re “very similar to butter beans in taste and texture, but much bigger”, and can be cooked in myriad ways. “They can be eaten much like baked beans—for breakfast with an egg, or just as a side dish. They are so versatile.”
You could simply boil them, “but what I like to do is soak them overnight, then pre-boil them for about 30 minutes before finishing them off in the oven with a tomato sauce, so they go crispy on top,” Marianna continues. “I then sprinkle that with feta cheese and perhaps some olives. I make a big pot on a Sunday and have it for lunches in the week. It’s a highly traditional Greek recipe, and it’s one of my absolute favourite dishes.”