What’s an “heirloom”? And how to cook Llano Seco Heirloom Beans

Llano Seco Rancho grows heirloom beans expressly for their rich flavor and their rich history. Heirloom vegetables and heritage breed animals are, in simple terms, the old timey varieties that are known for their flavor and nutritional value, that have gone out of fashion due to their inability to adapt to industrial agriculture’s ways.


The mechanization of agriculture began with the industrial revolution in the late 1800s and changed dramatically in the years post-WWII. As the food business expanded and companies began to rely on mechanized farming, the types of fruits, vegetables and animals that were best suited to those processes became preferred. Flavor was no longer the factor in choosing to cultivate a certain crop, but rather its resilience to the supply chain.

As breeds and varieties were chosen for their adaptation to industrial agriculture systems, the diversity of food choices we have now naturally decreased. But as part of the local, organic, small-scale food and farming movement, farmers have been rerouting back to varieties and breeds that are flavorful, beautiful, nutritious…maybe less resilient, but more enjoyable to eat. They may not be the easiest to grow, pack or ship, but they are better for you and better tasting.

Taste the difference in a Llano Seco Heirloom Bean – keep reading to learn how to store, soak, cook and enjoy them.

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One pound of dried beans will yield about 6 cups of cooked beans. Cooked beans freeze beautifully!

Store your Llano Seco beans in airtight containers in a cool, dry place that is not in direct sunlight.

Rinse beans to remove dust, dirt and any small pebbles. Cover beans by at least 3 inches of cold water and soak 4-6 hours, or simply leave them soaking overnight for convenience. Drain the beans and put them covered in the fridge if you are not cooking them immediately. Always discard the soaking water and cook with fresh water.

When you are ready to cook the beans, place soaked beans in a large pot and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil, and continually skim any foam that rises to the surface and discard. Lower to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the bean and desired tenderness. The beans should remain submerged while they cook, so add more water to the pot if you need to. Gently Simmering allows beans to stay creamy in texture and ensures that their skins don’t break. When cooked, remove from heat and stir in a good long pour of extra virgin olive oil.

Kitchen lore has it that adding salt to beans while they cook will inhibit them from ever becoming tender, but it’s just not true. In fact, salt accelerates the cooking time by tenderizing the bean skins. Add the salt when the beans have begun to soften, usually about halfway through cooking. The salt will pass through the beans’ softened skin and bring out their flavor. Add acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, vinegar, wine or citrus juice once the beans have softened. If it’s added too early, the acid can thicken the beans’ skin and extend cooking time. Non-acidic seasonings such as fresh herb sprigs, garlic and onion, can go into the pot from the start. Also bay leaves, whole chili peppers and peppercorns are beautiful ways to brighten a pot of beans.

If you are in a rush, put the beans in a large pot with enough cool water by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. Cover, and let stand for 1-2 hours. Drain and add new cold water before cooking. This method doesn’t ensure even rehydration and therefore beans may cook more unevenly.