Sun Coast Farms brings us one step closer to eliminating trips to the grocery store by offering stew-worthy dry beans and lentils at the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers’ Market. Each week, in addition to a beautiful selection of broccoli, Brussels sprouts (on or off the stalk), artichokes, purple baby artichokes, asparagus and celery, Sun Coast has bags of dry beans to satisfy the need for winter soups and stews.
But first, a little bean backstory: most legumes (also called pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization) are straight forward – they grow as pole beans or bush beans, producing hundreds of pods that are allowed to dry on the vine, then are collected and shelled. Some beans, like garbanzo beans and lentils, are much more labor intensive or produce low yields, requiring more land and more hands. Unlike many legumes, which produce pods containing roughly 4-6 beans per pod, lentils and garbanzo beans come 1 bean per pod, 2 if you’re lucky. So next time you sit down to that bowl of Chana Masala or lentil dal, give a little thanks to your farmer for all that work.
Sun Coast Farms is located in Lompoc, near Santa Barbara wine country. The farm’s selection of dry beans on any given Sunday includes standards like pinto and black beans, but also more unusual varieties like Christmas lima beans, which are named for their deep crimson stripes and a wonderful chestnut flavor. You’ll also find dried fava beans, yellow beans, garbanzo beans, and pinquito beans, as well as black-eyed peas and lentils. All are $6 for a two-pound bag.
“The Christmas lima is the most popular,” said the vendor as we talked over the candy-colored assortment. It’s no wonder. Once cooked, Christmas lima beans double in size, making a single bean about 1 ½ inches long. This recipe for Lima Bean, Barley and Vegetable Soup really showcases the bean’s color and flavor.
Beans are so versatile. They cook up quickly in a pressure cooker (some cooking times are as low as 10 minutes), or slowly over an hour or two in a stock pot. Use beans in soups like this black bean soup, or as a base for burritos like this one.
If you can’t make it to the Mar Vista market, Sun Coast also has a booth at the Hollywood, Venice and Santa Monica Saturday farmers’ markets. They sometimes share a booth with Weiser Farms (but are solo at the Mar Vista location), so you can pick up some potatoes while you’re there.
What’s in season right now at Sun Coast? As warmer weather approaches, they will have asparagus and artichokes in stock, but now is the time to enjoy these cool-weather crops: take home broccoli crowns for $ 1, Brussels sprouts for $3 per pint, and crisp white heads of cauliflower for $3 each.