Where’s the hummus? 2/1/2022

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If you’ve been in in the past couple of weeks, you may have asked us, “Where’s the hummus?” If you’ve been wondering but haven’t asked, we have bad news.

The white bean hummus we’ve been making for the past year(ish) was built on cannellini beans grown (at our request) by Daniel (and family) at Pecan Meadow Farm. The beans were kind of an experiment. I mean, they were pretty much entirely an experiment. They weren’t something Daniel had ever done before. But he grows a lot of grains and grasses (some for humans, some for his cows and other animals), and a lot of the harvesting and processing of beans is similar to that, so — he was game to give it a try. After the first harvest, when Dusty asked him how he thought it went, Daniel said, “We learned a lot.”

An image of a homemade pizza with crumbled sausage and sliced onion, cut into six slices, on a pizza tray.

Pizza dough experiments continue. With sausage and onion, anyone?

That first crop wasn’t pretty enough for retail sale, and Daniel and Co weren’t up for the task of thoroughly cleaning and sorting the beans to get them there (truth: no beans are harvested ready for retail sale, but larger farms/processing facilities have some fancy machines, etc, to help with the task). For making small-batch hummus, though, our kitchen staff could sort and clean no problem. (One of the issues with cleaning is that if you use any water, you then have to figure out how to let the beans dry thoroughly unless you’re going to cook them right away; we always just washed the beans immediately before cooking to get around that conundrum.)

Anyway! Daniel’s first experiment was a lot bigger than we’d anticipated, and since it was a pretty good harvest, he wound up with a lot more beans than we expected. He didn’t seem too worried, but we were worried that if we didn’t buy enough of them, he wouldn’t feel like it was worthwhile to grow them again.

We needn’t have worried. The white bean hummus was a big hit, and when it was time to plant again (not all that long after the initial harvest, really), Daniel was all for it. That was, you know, last spring.

We spent the fall watching our bean supply dwindling, holding our breath that we’d make it until the next harvest came in. We took the white bean soups off the menu so we could save what we had for hummus. We stopped trying to figure out whether or not we could get the beans pretty enough for retail sale without shortening their shelf life.

And then word came from Daniel — this year’s crop was a loss. No more beans until at least the fall of 2022.

What went wrong? Moisture is the likely culprit. What we call dry beans don’t start out dry — they grow a lot like green beans (bush or vine shapes vary with the variety), but they’re left in the field to dry in the pod before harvest. They like a consistent moisture level, and too much rain or humidity toward the end of the season can do them in, causing them to rot or mold instead of dry. Many non-organic dry beans are sprayed with Roundup towards the end of the season to cause the plants to dry out so they’ll be ready for harvest before it gets too cold. That’s not part of Daniel’s method, leaving him much more reliant on nature.

So, with a 50/50 success rate so far, Daniel is saving the beans he was able to salvage this fall to plant in the spring to try again. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

In the meantime, we’re also scoping out other sources for locally grown beans, and — feeling the hole in our own diets — are experimenting with different “jawns” that might be able to stand in for the white bean hummus (or perhaps earn their own spot in our dietary rotation). We say “jawn” because we’re not really sure what to call it when we roast butternut squash and mix it with roasted garlic and a little bit of peanut butter (and a bunch of delicious spices) to make something that can be used as a dip or a spread or a sauce but would be too much of a stretch to call a “hummus” — even for us! So “jawn” it is.

Anyway — I expect we’ll have a little bit of a rotating cast of test batches available over the next few weeks (or maybe all the way until fall?) as we experiment with things that  might be able to fill that dietary niche, even if just semi-temporarily. Some will be vegan, some will not. (Did you try the Kimcheez?) If you try any of them, please let us know what you think!

And likewise on that pizza dough — we think we’re pretty close to being ready to put it into regular rotation, but we’d love some confirmation or constructive criticism. We’re making a lot more this week (in several rounds), so hopefully it’ll be on the shelves a little longer this time. 🙂

Thanks, all, and see you soon!