Guest Blog by Lesley Sykes, Primary Beans Co-Founder
Founded by Lesley and Renee Sykes, sisters who grew up on the Mexican border, Primary Beans was created to show home cooks in the US just how accessible, delicious, and varied dried beans can be. Beans are sourced directly from climate-conscious farms from all over North America to bring super-fresh, regional favorites to home kitchens. By doing so, Primary Beans is giving the world’s perfect food – from a nutritional, planetary, and culinary perspective – the love it deserves.
Through my 15+ year career in agriculture, I’ve long understood that beans are the cornerstone of climate-conscious farming.
I’ve long understood that beans are the cornerstone of climate-conscious farming. But despite being a perfect food, they’re still largely misrepresented in the US.
Through my upbringing on the Mexican border and traveling the world, I noticed how freshness plays a major role in flavor and one’s cooking experience. Countries that enjoy beans regularly typically have a higher turnover rate – therefore, beans tend to be fresher. At home in the US, many of the beans found on grocery store shelves are grown at a very large scale, bred for traits like suitability for canning, and stored for longer periods of time.
I also noted that beans available through most outlets are limited to only a handful of varieties, even though there are hundreds of varieties that serve as culinary staples across the globe, offering so much diversity in flavor and texture. Beans are one the world’s longest-cultivated foods for good reason – they’re nutrient-dense, good-for-the-planet, delicious, and actually really easy to prepare.
Primary Beans was born out of a desire to create transparency around how beans are grown, celebrate stories from the field, and share cooking guidance.
I realized that my perspective uniquely qualified me to create a network of like-minded farmers and provide home cooks with fresh, flavorful, and regional varieties from across North America. Primary Beans was born out of a desire to create transparency around how beans are grown, celebrate stories from the field, and share cooking guidance – ultimately shifting people’s mindsets about how beans fit into their daily lives and helping to protect our planet.
Through our educational content and offerings, my team and I have built a passionate community of bean cooks who are developing their own bean palates as they cook their way through our lineup of 13+ varieties.
We intentionally don’t offer pinto beans – the most widely consumed bean in the US (by a large margin) – but instead feature three lesser known, but equally fantastic beans as part of our Not-a-Pinto set: Ojo de Cabra, Flor de Junio, and Bayo. Our farm partner in Zacatecas, Mexico – a major bean growing area – is thrilled to grow these regional favorites that have grown out of favor among farmers due to export-centric market incentives. The beans are part of healthy crop rotations with onions, chiles, and other vegetables, adding important nitrogen to the soil for other plants to use.
Our popular cooking guide dispels long held myths that have made cooking beans less accessible.
Our popular cooking guide dispels long held myths that have made cooking beans less accessible. For example, we took a bold stance with our tagline “so fresh you can skip the soak,” since we view soaking to be an unnecessary step that often prevents home cooks from regularly cooking dried beans (there’s just one exception: soaking helps revive beans that are older than two years).
Our growing collection of 75+ recipes were designed to nourish and transport, and showcase unexpected ways to enjoy beans throughout the seasons. For example, one of our most popular recipes for the summer was our aguachile beans – a twist on the classic Mexican dish featuring seafood. Our community also loves our holiday bean confit, made with rosemary, kumquats, chiles, and lots of good olive oil. Beans is How’s upcoming #BeansontheMenu Challenge is a truly innovative way to drive this concept home by encouraging chefs to include bean dishes on their menus and spotlight beans’ incredible culinary traits (including a special focus on NYC restaurants September 18 through October 31).
Our bean offerings provide an opportunity for home cooks to not only expand their horizons in the kitchen, but also interact with our sourcing in a unique way. Through our growing Bean People Membership program, pilot projects with university extension and the USDA, and other initiatives, we’re bridging the gap between farmers and breeders with the people who enjoy their fruits of labor, and inviting them to more deeply engage in our food system.
Beans is How.
Travis Parker, bean breeder at UC Davis commented, “Unsurprisingly, I think beans are delicious, nutritious, and sustainable and this kind of positive marketing is exactly what is needed. I’m really glad we’ve been able to partner [with Primary Beans] to fill a high-value product category niche with high field productivity.”
Beans is How is a campaign I’m so proud to support. Participation presents an opportunity for us to connect with brands and organizations doing incredible work and be part of a larger movement to address systemic challenges associated with increasing bean consumption – one piece of the puzzle (albeit an important one) in addressing so many global environmental challenges.