Thursday, July 1, 2010

Vendor Profile: The Better Bean

Beans are a food item that is often the butt of many a joke (pun only slightly intended - it's late on a Thursday night and I'm feeling a little punchy). But the truth is they are a dietary staple for much of the world, being an inexpensive and available source of vegetable protein and fiber for millions of people in nearly every country on the planet. Beans come in a rainbow of colors and flavors with different cultures making use of different varieties - think of Mexican black beans and rice, or Southern black eyed peas, or even a French cassoulet. The thing the all have in common is the unpretentious bean.

In Native American culture, beans were one of the "Three Sisters" along with corn and squash - one of the oldest examples of "companion planting" in which plants are intermingled to the mutual benefit of each. Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the soil. Low growing squash vines become a living mulch, crowding out weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating. A beautiful symbiotic relationship.

This year, Montavilla Farmers Market welcomes a new vendor of prepared beans. But not just any ordinary bean - A Better Bean. Combined with locally sourced ingredients in flavors like Refried Red Beans or Caribbean Style Black Beans. Free of preservatives and guaranteed to reinspire you incorporate more beans into your weekly diet. Read more about The Better Bean and the small business start up assistance they received from Portland Community College Recipe to Market Program

From Better Bean Proprietor, Keith Kullberg

1) What types of products do you specialize in? The Better Bean Company is pioneering freshly prepared beans as an alternative to canned beans. They come refrigerated like salsa not canned as so have a gourmet flavor that is not mushy and overcooked like canned beans and without the BPAs. We make Refried Red Beans, Refried Black Beans and a Caribbean Style Beans. We have a two step cooking process. We first boil the beans and then sauté them in central Oregon safflower oil and spices. The sautéing makes the same difference as barbecuing a steak vs boiling it in water and gives them the authentic flavor found south of the border. Our black beans come from Oregon’s Snake River Valley and our red beans from Idaho’s Magic Valley. We have additional product planned for the future.

2) What are your biggest challenges in operating a farm/business? And what makes it all worth it? The biggest challenge is creating customer awareness for a new product category. What makes it worth it is the smile on our customer’s faces when they taste how good beans can be.

3) What food policy issues do you think are critical to the future of agriculture in Oregon? Supporting small family farms, non-GMO produce and preventing Monsanto from monopolizing farmers seed supply.

4) Why do you chose Montavilla Farmers Market to sell your products? We understand it is strongly supported and popular in the neighborhood. We think it is a progressive neighborhood and are looking forward to being part of the market.

5) Do you have a favorite cookbook that you cook from? I tend to invent new recipes.

6) What food/agriculture related book, magazine or movie would you recommend? Food Inc., Beans, a History by Ken Abala.

1 comment:

  1. I am absolutely hooked on their beans. And they have an awesome brand. I like making slow-cooked black bean burritos in pan with a little butter. Here's the scoop:

    The ingredients (in order):
    1 cup brown rice
    1 cup re-fried organic black Better Beans
    1/2 cup Tillamook medium cheddar
    2 tablespoons of salsa or Pace picante
    1 dash of paprika
    1 dash of black pepper
    Garnish with green onion or cilantro

    Grab a Mexican-style tortilla. Add the above ingredients and roll that sucker into a nice burrito. Add 1 tsp of butter to a skillet on medium. Heat for 15 minutes until golden brown. Flip it over and heat on low-med for another 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cut in half and serve on a plate. Deliciously hot.