(Phaseolus vulgaris); Heirloom; a Slow Food Ark of Taste variety; Bush bean; Dry bean; Minimum 20 seeds
In Italy, Zolfino beans are so prized they have their own association, Associazione del Fagiolo Zolfino del Pratomagno, which is credited for rescuing the variety from the brink of extinction. In 2000 they were boarded on Slow Food Italy's Ark of Taste. The small roundish beans named for their light yellow hue, akin to sulphur, are typically found growing along the terraced hillsides in the Pratomagno region of Tuscany, in the midst of lush olive groves. Fall harvested beans are allowed to sun-dry in the local farmyards before they are hand-cleaned and sorted, with only the best, flawless beans making it to market.
Traditionally planted on “Giorno del Cento”, the hundredth day of the year, we wait until the soil temperature is consistently above 65° F before direct seeding (and that is a bit early!) Compact bushes are very productive yielding an abundant harvest of short pods containing 5-6 beans each.
What originally drew us to this variety were descriptions of its culinary attributes and time-honored preparation method. Known for its refined, unique flavor and fine thin skin that "melts in your mouth", the bean doesn't require soaking. Fagioli al fiasco is the classic method of slow cooking Zolfino in a Chianti flask over the fading embers of one's hearth overnight. What awaits you in the morning is a dense creamy paste that paired with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh savory herbs and a touch of salt, creates an "irreplaceable combination to the satisfaction of the most refined palate." After reading and picturing it in our minds, how could we resist?! Though, not quite the same, using a dutch oven or a crock-pot is certain to produce comparable tasty results.