Looking for Tarbais beans

fran_always(z6 PA)February 14, 2007

Hi, everyone. I would like to grow some Tarbais beans this year, but don't see any company selling them in the US.

There are some companies that sell them as food. Could these be used as seeds? I would doubt it. Either they may be processed or picked too early.

I have a relative in Europe, so I could order from Kokopelli, but I am not sure if they could easily be "smuggled in" (needs a permit to import seeds into the US).

Did anyone manage to locate some?

Thanks for any help.


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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Fran, you need to talk to Jimster, he grew them last year.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 4:54PM
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fran_always(z6 PA)

Zeedman, I did check Jimster's page; he doesn't have seeds to trade. But he might still have some beans around the house. I'll wait and see if he finds this thread. In the meantime, are you an SSE member? If so, would you mind checking the yearbook to see if any member offers it? I bet there might be a few. I was a member until 4 years ago when I move and had no garden for 2 years.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 9:13PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Sorry, Fran, no one is offering them this year... which makes me interested in them too, especially if they are a true pole variety (I grow mostly poles). Neither does the last version of the Garden Seed Inventory list a source. You may end up having to use food-grade seed, and watch the plants for variation as they grow - you could get a pure generation, and be able to save seed successfully.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 12:00AM
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fran_always(z6 PA)

No, Zeedman, wait. It gets even more interesting. I was browsing French websites to see if I could get something and I found an interesting article about the Tarbais bean.

As I already knew, the Tarbais bean, because of the way it grows can only be harvested manually. So, for generations, people grew it in corn fields. It is said that this association with corn gave the bean its particular taste. But with the advent of mechanical harvesting, the bean slowly disappeared.

I am giving here a summary of the article: "By 1987 the Tarbais bean had all be vanished. Jean-Marc Bédouret, the president of the best known cooperative in the area, together with a few friends and the help of a technicien at the agriculture department, decided to intervene. Touring all the farms in the area, they discovered 24 different strains of the bean. For centuries, farmers jealously kept their own seeds, each believing that his bean was the best.

A researcher at the Conservatory, who consecrated his whole life to study French beans, Hubert Bénarot, came to the rescue. A first selection eliminated 4 of the strains. A second selection kept 9 of them. Ultimately, the very best strain was chosen. This is the only strain that is now recognized as the true Tarbais bean and grown by 90 producers. It was named Alaric for a local river.

Although production has grown by 20% yearly, it still does not meet demand. The goal is to go from 2 tons in 1987 to 150 tons a year, but even that would not meet the demand for the bean." - end of article

So, Alaric it is. Maybe it is under that name in the SSE yearbook. I have located 2 French seed companies that sell it, but they don't send abroad. So, I'll either ask my dad to send me some, or I'll get them when I go to Europe. Or both.

Here is a link that might be useful: French article on Tarbes

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 11:53AM
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fran_always(z6 PA)

I'll keep adding information as I find it.

Culture: The Tarbais bean seems to prefer somewhat acidic loamy soil.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 9:55PM
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I, too, am looking for tarbais beans to grow this summer for cassoulet making in the winter of 2007-2008. A fellow named Dick Churcher, whom I found somewhere on the internet, was going to ask someone named Chris and they will let me know if they get some in and I will gladly forward the info along should it come to pass. In the meantime, I took a class on cassoulet making and the chef had some beans he gets from a private source in California. Supposedly, the original seeds were brought back from France by Alice Waters herself. I will try to grow some of these as they make a fantastic dish of cassoulet. From pictures of tarbais beans, these look mighty close, but I would like to try the real deal. I am so glad that there are more eyes out there looking.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 4:23PM
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fran_always(z6 PA)

MadameGateau, do you speak French? From your name I would suppose you do.

I would grow the beans that you have. If they were used by a chef, they must be good enough.

I located a source for the Tarbais bean seed in the US (and it is a lovely website) but I have 2 problems with them that you may not have:

-there are different lines of the bean as each farmer kept it to himself over the years. If you read the article I translated above, you will see that in the 90's they made a selection from all these lines and the only one they chose to be the "official" Tarbais bean and the one that has the Label Rouge is the strain they called "Alaric". That's the one I want, but it is not the one this website sells. Oh well! If you are not a purist and just want to grow the seed to make great cassoulet, I am sure this one will be just as good.

The 2nd problem is that they are very expensive and you have to buy for a certain minimum (I'm not sure).

Now I did a bit of detective work and it 'looks like' (but don't quote me on it) their 'farm in central France' is the Ferme de Sainte Marthe.

I hope you will post a nice cassoulet recipe in the meantime.

Here is a link that might be useful: L'Atelier Vert

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 1:37AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

fran always,

I haven't been following this forum. Just dropped in and saw this thread. You have email.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 8:00PM
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Looking for some seed grade Tarbais beans- can anyone help-I have meny rare seed we can trade or I will buy out right.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 4:21AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Sorry, haven't checked this forum for awhile.

There are food grade sources here and here. Chances are either of them would be pure enough for garden use.

Several SSE members also offered "Tarbais" this year, including the cultivar "Tarbais Alaric" (which was obtained from the French source above). They have been discussed in greater detail on the Bean Forum... and a few members there have grown it, as mentioned in the thread below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tarbais

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 3:46PM
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