The “big bean with a tender heart” is how it is described by its producers, has nearly disapperared. The Soissons, its name adopted from the region where they are grown in the department of l’ Aisne, France, is the biggest bean in France, chubby and plump, they are also the tastiest. For several years, there were only five producers of the Soissons and no real marketing. Surprising destiny for the dried beans that grew in the region of l”Aisne, near to the Chemin des Dames, land that was ravaged during the First World War. After these difficult times, and since it had to be picked by hand, its demand by the people was lessened, and the bean was nearly forgotten.
So in 2003, the Coopérative agicole of “Haricot de Soissons” (Beans from Soissons) was created by the work of 35 productors (cereal producers, animal breeders, produce marketers, and wine makers). They gathered only 13 tonnes of beans, a much smaller amount than the report of 800 tons gathered at the beginning of the 20th century.
Rich in fiber, iron, proteins and poor in fats, this dried vegetable has no bad qualities. And also, it is really easy to cook for this winter season.
How to cook:
Measure 70 gms per person. Place beans in water over night. They will triple in volume. Then cook one hour with a bouquet garni. Do not salt until they are served. Be careful, if you add salt during cooking, it will harden your beans!
Once cooked, they go well with leg of lamb..or you could put them into a soup with some créme fraîche (sour cream) and a little white wine. Also, in a salad with scallions, parsley, dried tomatoes..then lightly toss with some vinegar and olive oil...It is really nutritious, well-balanced and really good!