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|The seeds of Rancho Gordo were literally
planted in a grocery store here in Napa. I was shopping one August
for tomatoes and despite being in one of the world's most magnificent
agricultural regions, all the tomatoes were from a hothouse in Holland!
Worse, they were hard and pale pink instead of the ripe tomatoes I
was craving. I started to grow my own tomatoes and this eventually
led to beans.
|All of my agricultural
pursuits have been based on being someone who likes to cook but gets
frustrated by the lack of ingredients, especially those that are native
to the New World. It seems to me these indigenous ingredients should
be familiar, if not common but instead our own food is considered
exotic and sometimes in danger of being lost as we pursue a watered
down Euro-centric diet. American cuisine seems to be in a position
of re-inventing itself and I'd love to include ingredients, traditions
and recipes from south of the border as part of the equation. I love
the concept of The Americas. I feel as if it's just as important as
the European heritage many of us share.
Of course you don't need to know where food originates in order to
enjoy it. The beans are amazing and work in almost every cuisine.
Their roots may be Mexican but can you imagine anything more French
than the Flageolet bean? Borlotti may be the pride of the Piedmont
in Italy but they wouldn't exist without their roots in Colombia.
|I quickly learned that I wasn't a particularly
gifted farmer and in order to grow the amounts of beans I'd need to
really make this work, I'd have to work with bigger growers. We now
have four growers working with us, all in Northern California except
one in Fresno. We import one bean from Peru and our quinoa comes from
Bolivia. My goal is to support Northern California agriculture but
there are some instances where the best quality means sourcing outside
of my state. Sourcing quinoa and amaranth led me to a cooperative
of Bolivian farmers who hand-harvest the Rancho Gordo products.
I'm lucky enough to travel throughout Mexico and Central America searching
for unique and rare legumes and herbs that I'll bring back to my trial
gardens here in Napa. Each summer I grow them out to see if they'd
be suitable for production or just seed-saving. We're starting to
develop a substantial seed bank as friends and customers are constantly
sending me odd and rare beans from their travels. I share seeds via
the Seeds Savers Exchange and I'd
encourage anyone to give growing beans a go. It's easy, fun and the
rewards are almost immediate.
|Press coverage of Rancho Gordo has
been plentiful, no doubt in part due to the colorful beans themselves.
Recent articles on Rancho Gordo in the Wall Street Journal, Los
Angeles Times, Chow, Sunset, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food & Wine,
Country Home, San Francisco Chronicle, and Chile Pepper
have all contributed to the groundswell of interest in heirloom beans.
In January of 2008, Saveur Magazine listed Rancho Gordo at
number two on their esteemed Saveur 100 list.
My book Heirloom
Beans: Recipes from Rancho Gordo, co-written with Vanessa
Barrington, is published by Chronicle Books.
New World food is exciting, tasty, healthy, romantic,
and debatably, easier on the earth. I hope you enjoy cooking with
these Rancho Gordo products as much as I enjoy growing and presenting