The Local Food Report: Uncle Phil's P'Town Beans

Two years ago, Peter Burgess was at the Truro Ag Fair. He was chatting with another farmer—networking, for him, is what the fair's all about—who told him he had a bean he just had to grow. Yeah, yeah, thought Peter. I hear that all the time.

Well. A few days later he was out in the garden. A truck pulled up. A man got out. And he reached his hand over the garden fence and opened up his palm. In it were dried beans—cherry red with white spots. These are a Provincetown heirloom, he explained.

Turns out, the beans came from Phil Alexander, a local gardener who took care of novelist John Dos Passos garden in Provincetown in the 1930s and 40s. Dos Passos had taken a trip to northern Spain, to Alava in the Basque region, and he'd brought these beans back. Over there they are a local specialty, celebrated, and Alexander planted them in Dos Passos' garden. They thrived. He shared them with a few other local families, and since the 40s, these families have been passing the dried seed down. Sal Del Deo grew them for Ciro & Sal's and Sal's Place, and Tony Pasquale uses them today at Terra Luna restaurant. 

Peter gave me some of the dried seed last year. I usually grow Masai Bush Haricot Vert—a small, thin Fedco variety. They're tasty. But these beans were something else altogether. First of all, they're a broad bean—flat, wide, and snappy. You think they're going to be tough, but raw they're sweet, and cooked they get almost buttery. They're delicious. There's no going back for me. 

I saved my seed this year, and next year I'll be planting them again. Peter calls them Uncle Phil's P'Town Beans, after Phil Alexander. If you'd like to get your hands on some, email Peter at tashmuit@gmail.com or send a self-addressed stamped envelope with $2 to P.O. Box 212, North Truro, MA 02652.

Oh! and if you happen to get your hands on some of the beans themselves—or any tender, buttery flat bean for that matter—I highly recommend cooking them like this.


Anonymous said...

20 felledETitiK0I hope those are not your hands holing the bean........

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