Ark of Taste
Hank's X-Tra Special Baking Bean
Phaseolus vulgaris v.Hank's X-Tra Special
Until 2005, Hank’s X-Tra Specials were virtually unknown beyond the annals of small town memory, when Hank’s daughter, Peg Lotvin, discovered a stash of her father’s prized beans in a tin at his house after his passing. Peg was kind and thoughtful enough to donate the last of this local treasure to the Hudson Valley Seed Library, along with recollections of her father’s growing objectives, and some history of its culinary use.
Endearingly, Hank’s X-Tra Special Baking Beans were the star of Ghent’s very own gardentotable baked bean dish, to which many of the citizens contributed ingredients from their own kitchen gardens. These extra special baked beans were served at a variety of town functions, and were not only delicious, but functioned as an edible symbol of community that literally brought people together from the garden plot to the table.
These beans are dense and substantial legumes that lend a rich, creamy texture to any dish in which they are employed. Tender inside and boasting ideal structural integrity, Hank’s X-Tra Specials do not break down, nor do they suffer from a tough seed skin.
In 2014, there were only 20 pounds of dried Hank’s X-Tra Special Baking Beans known to be in existence, all held by the Hudson Valley Seed Library for seed saving purposes. The people of Ghent had not tasted the bean for decades, and it is very likely that the public at large has never had access to Hank’s Beans.
The Hudson Valley Seed Library worked gradually to increase their stock of the beans, growing them on their own property in Accord, NY and with the help of a partner farm in Kerhonkson, NY. In the summer of 2015, the Hudson Valley Seed Library partnered with Glynwood, the Hudson Valley Chefs Network, Slow Food USA and seven passionate local farmers to develop a seed grow-out.
The grow-out increased the seed stock of Hank’s X-Tra Special Baking Beans, familiarized regional growers with the bean, and regional chefs now will have an opportunity to cook with the bean, allowing consumers a taste of this rare and special product. The project’s ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the importance of local and regionally specific varietals, from seed to field to plate. As with the Hudson Valley Seed Libary’s other seed offerings, Hank’s X-Tra Specials have been bred specifically for the Hudson Valley environment and represent a valuable means to sustain and reclaim the region’s biodiversity.