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Where to Find a Variety of High Quality Dried Beans in the Boston Area (or Online)

I've recently started using dried beans (black beans from a VT farmer and chick peas from Whole Foods), and since using dried beans, I am less and less satisfied with canned beans. So, I am looking for a place in Boston or online to source really good fresh dried beans. I'm looking for Cannellini, Red Kidney, Garbanzo, and Black Beans all in one place together with some more interesting varieties to sample like Azuki and Dalmatian Beans. Another thread here about online sources suggested Rancho Gordo. Are they still the place to go on the web? Any thoughts or tips would be appreciated.

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  1. Honestly most supermarkets have a pretty good selection, or the Armenian places in Watertown, or any good Latino Market (Mayfair in Allston, Tropical Foods Roxbury) also, a reasonably priced Presto pressure cooker makes cooking beans a breeze. 8 minutes under pressure, 40 minutes waiting for the pressure to reduce... bingo, best beans ever.

    http://www.amazon.com/Presto-8-Quart-...

    http://www.amazon.com/Presto-01362-6-...

    1 Reply
    1. re: StriperGuy

      Brown rice & beans are a staple in my home - I don't use a pressure cooker. What I do is recommended on some of the bags of standard varieties - boil for a couple of minutes, let sit for an hour, then cook them. I tend to drain & rinse, between stages, too.

      I'd like to try local if I can get them - actually haven't even thought about it, even though during the summer I try to buy most my produce locally! Duh... having some homemade baked falafel right now - got falafel spice mix & dried fava beans at Arax (delicious!). Man, do I love that store - and the other two there. They're like the Holy Trinity of Chowdom...

    2. I do still love Rancho Gordo, and they cost about half the price mail order than they do at Formaggio. Christina's has a nice variety. I also have been mail ordering for years from Native Seeds SEARCH. http://shop.nativeseeds.org/collectio... I like supporting both of these mail order organizations.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Madrid

        Another source for dried beans with a focus on locally grown ones is Sid Wainer, who probably offers them by mail as well as at their Grocery Outlet in New Bedford. They are also sometimes included in CSAs and I would hope that winter Farmer's Markets would have them.

        StriperGuy mentioned ethnic green-grocers who usually have not only dry offerings, but often carry some beans (pole, fava, etc) in season. In addition to Arax, I shop Roberto's in Medford who carries both dried and fresh.

        1. re: itaunas

          Russos carries some nice brands and a reasonable range of dried beans.

          1. re: teezeetoo

            Russo's has carried Baer’s Best Beans in the past. They are grown and preserved by a Massachusetts farmer.
            http://www.ediblecommunities.com/bost...

            This link in to an article about them from the ever so wonderful folk at Edible Boston. I tried them and decided they were worth the price. But, I don't have a car and don't get to Russo's very often.

            Penny
            http://www.bostonzest.com/

      2. jl, i have been getting more into beans and whole grains as well. rancho gordo still does a really neat variety but all the ones you mentioned are available at my local S and S and Mkt Basket,and the Middle Eastern Stores, except Dalmatian, and adzukis are in every Japanese store, and prob any Asian store(as well as in WF). While Formaggio is expensive, you could rationalize buying the more exotic Rancho gordo beans there because you're avoiding shipping costs.

        Whether correct or not, I have never felt confident in the goods quality at Christina's Spices> Aside from the surly service there, I think it's because of all the product filling the windows and exposed to that high heat.I go into an involuntary wince every time i walk by that store.
        Two suggestions:
        * Cranberry beans can be found harvested locally and they are really super.
        * You might also find interest in all the different dal and pulses sold at Indian markets.

        1 Reply
        1. re: opinionatedchef

          ordered via the web, Rancho Gordo beans are $5.50 a pound and there is flat shipping rate of $12 via UPS to the east coast (and us postal service, $15 for 20 pounds). at formaggio, the Rancho Gordo beans are $8.95 a pound. I hate paying that kind of surcharge to formaggio...love the store, but not the prices.

        2. I like Purcell Mountain Farms, which has a tremendous variety of beans:

          http://www.purcellmountainfarms.com/D...

          As for buying locally: buy only in places with high turnover. I have to say that some of the more foodie-oriented places tend to have old beans because there is not a sufficient turnover (the only way to tell is by cooking and seeing how they never completely cook through, sad to say).

          5 Replies
          1. re: Karl S

            "As for buying locally: buy only in places with high turnover."

            Yea, that's my main concern with buying from some local places that I know have beans. I've had very stale common beans before from Market Basket and Stop & Shop. And if their black and kidney beans are stale, I would be very concerned about the freshness or their other beans (i.e. their lower volume beans). I get my black beans from the farmer who grows them, so they are coming in fresh, and there is no comparison to any other bean I've had before. So, I'm hoping to find other super fresh sources of beans. I may try Purcell, Rancho Gordo, and this Baer fellow's beans sound really good and fresh, so I might need to make a trip out to Russo's or try to contact him directly.

            1. re: jljohn

              I've not been impressed by consistent freshness at Russo's, but maybe that was because I was going after less well known variety (molasses face/eye beans, part of the thin-skinned yellow eye type family of beans, which were probably the original beans used in baked beans in this region, and have the best flavor and texture IMO). And, admittedly, it's been a while since I bothered buying beans there, so my info may be stale, too! I'd really like dried beans to come with the harvest date on them.

              1. re: Karl S

                Thanks for the tip. I was actually thinking to go to Russo's specifically for the Baer's Best Beans. Hopefully a local producer's small-farm stock will prove to be fresh and tasty! He only produces about 10 varieties a year, but if they are good then it's a good starting point!

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    Yes, 20 total, but as he rotates crops, he only has 10 per year (at least according to Edible Boston)

          2. Awesome thread....much thanks! We got a pressure cooker last year and have almost completely phased out canned beans, but I share many of the concerns here about the variability in freshness of the dried beans available in local stores. Thanks for all the suggestions, I will be doggedly pursuing these!! :)

            1. Not necessarily high quality in the locavore etc. sense, and not a lot of variety, but since we're talking beans I thought I'd point out the category of frozen beans, for those few who might not know. You often see limas and favas and pigeon peas, but for a time I was pretty into the frozen black eyed peas (great for, e.g., a short cut Hoppin John-style dish.) It's my understanding that they are frozen fresh, so they are more convenient than dried and different from canned. When I lived in J.P. I would buy them regularly at the Stop and Shop, house brand. Haven't checked around for them lately. I also haven't checked out what places like Whole Foods offer in this category. Stahlbush Island http://www.stahlbush.com/our-products... is one company that has a few beans in their line, and they are organic etc.

              1. Seed Saver's Exchange sells a few bean varieties for cooking.
                http://www.seedsavers.org/Items.aspx?...
                And if you are at all inclined to growing your own, they are a good source for a variety of heirlooms. Personally I've had good luck growing Brockton Horticultural, Hidatasa Sheild, and Good Mother Stallard; not so much luck with Tiger's Eye. The yields from my soil have not been overwhelming, so if I wanted to grow enough to feed my family I'd have to devote a lot more garden space to beans. That said, theya re pretty easy to grow - plant, water, and wait until fall when the pods dry out, then harvest. Pretty low-maintenence.

                We've tried a few varieties of Baer's Best too, through our CSA. I like them a lot. The Black Coco beans were big, flavorful, and did indeed cook up quickly - I found that i didn't really need to soak them ahead of cooking.

                1. Russo's has a good selection of Baer's beans (grown in Hamilton, MA). Baer's also appears at farmers' markets--check their Facebook page.