We are in the thick of winter and we thought it would the perfect opportunity to share a recipe featuring two superfood ingredients that are indigenous to the Sonoran Desert: tepary beans and hard squash.

We’ve already covered the origins of hard squash in an earlier blog post, so here we’ll focus on the tepary (tep-uh-ree) bean, an underappreciated legume that’s about to get more popular once you discover its cooking and nutritional merits.

Tepary beans have been cultivated in the Southwest for a very long time, and for good reason: they mature quickly and are among the most drought and heat tolerant crops in the world. Native Americans would plant them mid-summer with the monsoon rains, and then the plants would be subject to drought stress (which they need) as they mature. This tradition is not gone: the O’odham tribes of the Sonoran Desert continue to plant these ancient beans as their ancestors did.

These beans come in an array of colors with different qualities: generally, the lighter beans are nutty and creamy, and the dark brown ones are earthy and dense. The legumes are uniquely high in protein and fiber, making them an ideal staple food. And they are surprisingly not difficult to find thanks to e-commerce: Rancho Gordo sells them, as does Arizona-based Ramona Farms.

Want to try planting your own? Tucson-based Native Seeds/SEARCH sells packets of tepary bean seeds for home gardens.

Tepary bean seeds for sale at: www.nativeseeds.org

Cooking suggestions: Tepary beans are best cooked like any other bean, and are unique in that they remain intact (like lentils) after cooking. Garlic, onion, dried chile, and olive oil are excellent pairings. Below is a recipe we developed to showcase the tepary bean and its native counterpart, hard squash. It is purposefully brothy 🙂

Sonoran Desert Rustic Bean Stew with Chiles

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried tepary beans, pre-soaked overnight, drained
  • Low-sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade) or water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol
  • ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 4 cups ¾-inch cubes hard squash, such as acorn, delicata, or butternut (peeled if using butternut)
  • ½ lb chorizo, cooked, crumbled, drained (optional)
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Crusty bread or tortillas

Preparation

  1. Place the pre-soaked beans in large pot; add enough stock or water to cover the beans by at least 2 inches.
  2. Bring the beans and liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the beans at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2-3 hours. Add more liquid as necessary to keep the beans covered.
  3. Add the squash cubes and chorizo (if using) with about 30 minutes left to cook.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and chiles de arbol and cook until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir them into the beans with about 10 minutes left to cook.
  5. At the end of cooking, season the stew generously with salt. Serve with pepper and a drizzle of oil, followed by chopped cilantro. Don’t forget the crusty bread or tortillas.