One of the crops I tried for the first time this year was white rice beans. I got the seed as part of our community garden seed-saving project (it was sent to us free from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) and tried it out at the demo garden. This week was harvest time, as nearly all of the bean pods had dried (those that hadn’t went into the harvest as fresh beans. All the plants had to go; we need the space).
There are other plants called rice beans that produce reddish seeds and are an Asian species, Vigna umbellata. The ones I grew are part of the common bean species Phaseolus vulgaris, of South/Central American origin, and produce white seeds. Here’s what they look like when shelled:
And with a quarter for size context:
They are tiny! About the size of a grain of rice (maybe a little bigger), which is one reason for the name. And they take a very long time to shell. (Thank goodness for Netflix, is all I can say.) Here are the empty pods, ready to be composted:
That’s a large mixing bowl full of pods, which after hours of work resulted in about a cup and a half of shelled beans. Of which I’ve already cooked a half cup; the rest I’ll share with other gardeners either as food or as seed for next year.
So how to cook them? It’s tricky finding recipes on the web, because a) they are not a common ingredient, and b) try googling “white rice bean recipes.” All you get are recipes for beans and white rice. Which might be okay, since everything I’ve read about rice beans says that they are good with rice (the other reason for their name). I decided I’d try a chilled salad with chopped peppers and steamed filet beans instead:
I did find one reference to cooking rice beans, which indicated that, like lentils, they didn’t need to be soaked ahead of time. They do take a little longer than lentils (I’d say 30-40 minutes), but cook relatively fast because of their size. Flavor is nice but not exciting; they do need seasoning to make an impression.
So, I will probably grow these again, and pass the seed on to other people, but maybe next time I’ll try to trick someone else into shelling them. Or make a party out of it.