Kalvash beans – which you probably know better as garbanzos or chickpeas, the raw material for hummus – don’t scream “Arizona heritage.” At least, not in the way “white Sonoran wheat” now does, thanks to the efforts of the revitalized Hayden Flour Mills and the Bianco restaurant empire.
But they should. Originally brought to Arizona by Spanish missionary Padre Eusebio Kino in the 1700s, the seeds were planted in the Gila River Indian communities along with tepary beans and Pima club wheat. Today, Ramona Farms – led by Ramona Button and her husband Terry – resurrects these centuries-old heritage crops in the very soil where they were originally grown. Though Ramona Button’s most well-known product remains her colorful variety of tepary beans, the Native American farmer carries a soft spot for protein-rich kalvash, which she says evokes “nostalgia for the simpler life... when the Gila River flowed through our land.”
Most of the recommended preparations for the beans don’t stray too far from the hummus model; you boil them until the skins loosen, then blend them in a splash of the cooking liquid with salt and olive oil to create a spread best applied to wheat tortillas the grain-loving Pimas call che-chemaith. Kalvash have a strong, complex flavor; they taste like traditional chickpeas, but need less “fixing” (i.e. assaults of tahini, garlic and cumin).
Available at Whole Foods locations, in addition to many small markets. Visit ramonafarms.com for more information.
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