"Fresh" Dried Beans
Where do you buy good ones (not too old)?
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abud - yesterday i stopped by a an international foods shop on 9th ave at 40th street that had an impressive collection of bulk dried goods, including quite a few beans. i pickied up some garbanzos for about $1.50 a pound. i would guess they were pretty fresh, though i'm not really sure.
otherwise, check out the hispanic foods aisle in most grocery stores - there are quite a few dried beans there usually.
If you live near there, that crummy little supermarket place up between 41st and 42nd does have a very wide selection of Goya beans and they do move quickly. They also have a date code on the packages (first three digits are the "day of the year" (001-365), the next two are the year. Hard to beat that.
I like International (though it should be called Ninth Ave "90% Greek" Foods), but some of their bulk stuff can sit around for months, and months (and..., etc.) No guarantee of freshness, though they do have some things like imported favas and yigantes that you won't find in regular supermarkets that are worth paying a slight premium for.
Kalustyans on 2nd & E28th. The store has a good turnover and a grand assortment of beans.
MikeG: I never noticed any difference, until I received a packet of dried kidney beans with a CSA winter share. The beans came in the January delivery, and had been harvested the previous summer. They looked better - deep red skins, with pale yellow interior. They seemed to absorb soaking water quickly, and cooked rapidly. The skins were a bit tougher (many slipped off during cooking) but the interiors were creamy. The beans held their shape well, but were neither hard nor mushy. Just right. I ate them with a bit of salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a slice of bread. It was a fine meal.
Fresh Direct carries the whole Goya dried bean line -- black, navy, chickpea, pinto, red, etc. Beans are said to take longer to cook the older they get. My experience with all dried beans here in the U.S. is that they are all old and they all take waaaaay longer to cook than the recipes lead you to believe. The answer is to 1) soak 'em all over night and 2) get a pressure cooker. You can get smaller-sized cookers these days that are about the size of a saucepan and they will tame even the most resistent beans in a matter of minutes.