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Jan 4, 2010 03:58 PM

where to buy heirloom beans?

i'd love to branch out from the usual black, red and pinto. i can find a great selection online, but i can't bring myself to pay $$$ for shipping, ouch - so where can i find a good selection of dried heirloom beans in l.a.? preferably east side but i am willing to take a field trip...

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  1. Check to see if Nicole's in South Pas has any. Aside from that, I know of no regular supplier year 'round other than Surfas. They aren't necessarily cheap - the Tarbais are downright expensive - but they have a good selection, and they come in small enough bags that you can buy four or five or more and have a good lot to sample without being stuck with several pounds.

    The guy who sells mostly Brussels sprouts at the Saturday Pasadena farmer's market grows heirlooms of several kinds. He's a bit cranky at times, but he'll gladly tell you more about those beans you're buying than you'll want to know. See if he's got White Cats - those are really special.

    As for everyday alternatives to the pinto, a lot of the Latino markets (and Food 4 Less as well) often have Peruanos in bulk. Those are my new favorite bean, ranging in color from very pale green to off-white to beige. A bit bigger usually than cannelini, they're meatier, and hold up as well to long cooking. Best cassoulet I ever made was with those.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Another vote for Surfas. Not only do they have a much-larger selection than most places, the quality is excellent. And Will makes a good point -- they come in small bags, so you can try several without breaking the bank.

      2. You can buy RANCHO GORDO heirloom beans at Cube Marketplace on La Brea Blvd.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bruinike

          Rancho Gordo is the standard-bearer for heirloom beans, in my opinion. You can buy them at Cube or you can just buy enough online that the shipping doesn't seem so expensive. That's my usual approach.

        2. went to nicole's this morning as i was in the 'hood - i left with a pound and a half each of appaloosas, cranberries, calypsos and flageolets, plus a couple of other things. they had probably 10-12 different varieties, ranging from 1.95 - 15.95 for 1.5 lb packages - seems pretty reasonable.

          thanks for the tips, all. i'm going to head to surfas next time round - perhaps with someone to keep me reined in. there's just so much there that i can't possibly live without. really.

          3 Replies
          1. re: debershell

            Sounds to me like she has a wider selection than Surfas! Better prices, too. I need to get over there and take my own advice!

            1. re: debershell

              I haven't been to Nicole's in more than a year and didn't remember that many kinds of beans there -- good work.

              Keep us posted on your visit to Surfas. I just did a quick count on their new Web site ( ) and found ~20 kinds of dried beans. The store generally has more than the Web site in most categories.

              1. re: Harry Nile

                yes, so glad to know Nicole's has heirloom beans! I too did not recall a variety of beans there. It's much closer than Surfas, although a field trip to Culver City might be in order soon!