Chef Andrew Carmellini, then of Café Boulud
who was going on a tour of The Chef’s Garden
with Farmer Lee Jones
at the same time as Amanda Hesser
who was the food editor of the New York Times Magazine
Andrew and Amanda were walking among the haricot verts with Lee when Andrew somewhat self-consciously plucked an undersized bean and tasted it. “I have,” he said, “a stupid question.”
Lee already knew it wouldn’t be a stupid question but he didn’t necessarily realize what a breakthrough question it would actually be.
“I never thought about these beans ever being this size,” Andrew continued, “but why couldn’t they be used at this size?”
Lee replied that they could, in fact, be harvested at exactly that size.
“But what would you call them?” Andrew asked.
“That’s the easy part,” Lee said. “The Carmellini® bean!”
Haricot verts, when harvested, are about half the thickness of a number two pencil, growing about four to five inches long. The newly dubbed Carmellini® bean, though, was only about as thick as pencil lead, growing only two to three inches long.
Amanda, who was a key ingredient in this magical moment, published a two-page spread in the New York Times about the days she spent touring the farm, and these beans have been a delicious part of The Chef’s Garden’s offerings ever since.
“It takes three men an hour to hand harvest just one pound of this delicate bean,” Lee explains, “so it’s like the vegetable version of caviar. You don’t use a big spoon to ladle caviar on a dish and you probably wouldn’t want to pour on the Carmellini® beans. Instead, imagine floating three of these beans on top of a soup, perhaps with a scarlet runner bean bloom to provide extra visual and textural appeal.”
Because chefs receive 1,400 beans in a one-pound order, the cost per serving is minimal when used thoughtfully to enhance flavor. “Use a dab to complement your dishes,” Lee suggests. “You’ll get a delicate hint of earthy green bean, so tender, and you can share the story of the bean with your diners.”
Importance of Sharing the Story
Yes, the Carmellini® bean stands up on its own, as far as flavor, nutrition, texture and visual appeal. But, as The Guardian so eloquently reminds us, “Subconsciously, when you eat something, your brain is always comparing it to what you've had previously; it tries to find a similarity. The more powerful the story behind the food, the more it evokes the memory, which in turn enhances the flavour.”
The article also shares how food is: “a manifestation of our longings. It is also how we remember holidays and big life events. It is almost the vocabulary of our life.”
Carmellini® beans come in multiple hues – green, lime green and purple – and they can be ordered as a mixed package for even more visual appeal. The flavor is sweet and fresh, and the texture is succulent and crunchy.