The Tarbais Bean is a gastronomic glory from France. And like other things French it carries a long story accented by secrets, tragedy and a not-inconsiderable reluctance to share.
Tarbais Beans were introduced to France by the Bishop of Tarbes in the 15th Century. He championed the bean in his own garden and urged its production on local farmland. Over time Tarbais wound themselves into French cuisine finding their ultimate place in cassoulet. Tarbais have a distinctive rich flavor with a flour-like mouth feel.
Tarbais production in present-day France is tightly regulated. Only members of a small, closed cooperative in Tarbais are allowed to grow beans as "Tarbais" and a single strain, Alaric, is used to produced the coveted “Red Label” designation that denotes a unique and true product. Tarbais beans cannot be cultivated or harvested by machine. Unlike most domesticated major bean varities there is not a dwarf form. True Tarbais grow on tall trellises or on corn as suggested by one of its ancient names "Hericot mais." Thus tarbais farming is not a casual project.
Seed source: private collector, France.
These beans were organically grown in my garden in 2007
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