“We at Slow Beans defend, maintain and spread leguminious biodiversity: We are aware of its intrinsic value, and bear witness to the inherent pleasure of varied tastes and different gastronomic cultures that revolve around local legumes. We cultivate relationships and knowledge! We cultivate relationships and knowledge, not simple plant proteins for use as ingredients in highly processed foods completely detached from their original flavors.”
– Slow Beans Manifesto
Slow Beans is a network of Italian producers, cooks and activists united around the theme of beans. Members of Slow Food, they identify with a Manifesto of values and intent. The network first gathered in 2010 in Capannori, in the Tuscan province of Lucca, when the local convivium held the Fagioliadi, a competition of legume-based dishes. The network has grown over the last decade, spreading around Italy, and it is now ready to become international.
The Slow Beans network works to safeguard legumes and increase their consumption, first by growing them, and then by organizing various initiatives, such as promotional events (like the annual Slow Beans gathering) and campaigns (like the recent Let It Bean!, aimed at local mayors in partnership with organizations, as Meatless Monday).
- Because beans (and almost all legumes), dismissed during the decades of economic boom as food for the poor, are now being recognized as an essential staple in a diet that helps us live long and healthy lives: rich in antioxidants and fibre and low in cholesterol, they help to prevent heart disease and diabetes.
- Because the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) acknowledges pulses and legumes as crucial for food security, as they are an affordable source of proteins and micronutrients and they can be stored for a long period.
- Because a legume-rich diet is good for the environment; legumes require fewer inputs and enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen. Their cultivation has a lower impact then animal proteins because it implies fewer GHGs emissions and a reduced water footprint.
Each year, Slow Food USA put together a cast of rare and biodiverse seeds that tell a story. In 2022, they are celebrating beans! This curated kit includes beans on the Ark of Taste from each of the six regions in the United States with a unique relationship to the land and people there. When you grow beans, you positively impact soils, land use, water use, biodiversity and directly combat climate change! Follow Slow Food USA’s Plant A Seed campaign!
Beans can link not only countries, but also continents, as is the case with with these Ark of Taste pulses from Poland; their social pulse links Poland and Brazil, with Latvia and Italy also taking playing a part in this bean music.
In Latvia there’s a special collection… of beans! Ruta Beirote’s family has grown beans for generations, selecting them by shape and – above all – by color. This collection is so well known locally that when Ruta finds types that she doesn’t yet have at the market, they are often gifted to her by the vendors, many of whom are older people who can no longer grow these varieties themselves, but want their beans, their food heritage, to live on.
What’s the point in having a collection of beans then? Well, besides preserving the local heritage of biodiversity, it makes them available for delicious recipes like this bean and nut stew cooked by Baiba Smilga. A recipe that brings out a more modern and less classic flavor in the means: because beans don’t get old!