When you think about the signature foods of the Pacific Northwest I’ll bet that neither garbanzo beans nor lentils spring to mind. Unless, perhaps you’ve lived in Spain or one of the countries in the Middle East. Why is that? Because those countries have enjoyed the lentils and garbanzo beans grown by the Pacific Northwest Farmer’s Cooperative (PNW) for many years. Two years ago, with the launch of PNW Co-op Speciality Foods, they set out to share their delicious legumes with the communities in their own backyard of the Pacific Northwest region.
One of the eight Food Alliance Certified family farmers growing these crops for PNW Co-op Specialty Foods is Jim Hermann. Farming has been a way of life for four generations since the family started farming at Idaho’s RimRock Ranches in 1909. Jim and his son Ben are committed to preserving their family farm by enriching the soil and the environment through crop rotation, cover cropping and utilizing no-till agriculture methods.
I had an opportunity to visit Jim and his family this summer to see fields of garbanzo beans, lentils and wheat covering the rolling hills of his farm near Genesee, Idaho. Jim explained the key role that the lentils and garbanzos play in crop rotation because of their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. One of the crops that Jim was most proud to show me was a field of “Billy Beans” otherwise known as Pedrosillano café garbanzo beans.
This unique variety was developed by the PNW Co-op and is named after Bill Newbry the CEO of the co-op. These beans, grown exclusively by PNW Co-op farmers, are tiny to start but nearly double in size after soaking and make the most delicious hummus that you’ve ever tasted - smooth and creamy with a slightly nutty taste. Annie, Jim’s daughter, shared her hummus recipe with me.
Makes 6-12 servings
1 1/2 cups dried Pedrosillano garbanzo beans from PNW Co-op Specialty Foods, rinsed & soaked for 4-8 hours
1 medium cucumber, chopped
1/2 medium tomato, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled, plus more to taste
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Handful chopped fresh parsley
Juice and pulp of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (adjust for desired consistency and taste)
Drain soaked garbanzo beans, place in large pot and cover with about 6 cups of fresh cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 60-90 minutes, or until tender. Drain.
Put everything in food processor and blend to smooth consistency.
Serve with warm pita bread, cut vegetables and olives. Enjoy!
One of the reasons that Jim is so excited to be one of the farmers growing crops for PNW Co-op Specialty Foods is to be able to close the circle from field to table by seeing his crops finding their way directly to local markets. As it he explained to me there is a special thrill in seeing the fruits of your labor on the shelves. In December, Jim visited some of our stores in the Pacific Northwest Region to meet Whole Foods Market® team members and customers. Not only do customers want to know their farmers, farmers want to know their customers too!
Building those connections between farmers and consumers and providing traceability from field to table, including harvest dates for all crops, are two of the many things that make PNW Co-op Specialty Foods products so special. In addition, all of their products are verified Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project, are kosher and parve and are Food Alliance Certified.
I am so happy that our customers in Washington, Oregon and Boise, Idaho can find these in their store’s bulk departments and in the chef-prepared dishes in the prepared foods departments in some stores too.