Hereboontjie

Ark of taste
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Hereboontjie (Phaseolus lunatus L.) is a variety of Lima bean. It’s a large flat white bean, about 2cm long by 1.5cm wide, with 2 black markings next to the hilum which is the area where the bean is attached to the pod. The green pods are inedible and are left to dry on the plant. It is the dried seed that is kept for consumption. The plant itself is a climbing vine up to 4 m long with trifoliate leaves, yellowish white flowers, and pods of 5–12 cm containing two to four seeds.
Hereboontjies or Goewerneursboontjie are an heirloom bean of South Africa’s Western Cape, typically grown in the dry, sandy soil of the Sandveld on the province’s west coast.
The taste is somewhere between that of a chestnut and medlar fruit with colours of black-brown, red, white, and yellow. It is flat and uniformly white, with a black mark just above the hilum that helps to visually differentiate this variety from other white lima beans more widely available.
Translated variously from Afrikaans as lord’s, governor’s, God’s, or gentleman’s beans, there is little documentation of the hereboontijie. The first written reference to heeren- or heerboontjie appears to have been made in 1880, and there are many stories but little consensus around how the bean came to be named or when it arrived in the Cape. Some believe the bean was introduced by and subsequently named for Jan van Riebeeck ("Here van die Kaap" in the mid-1600s), while others believe the name comes from a harvest taxation policy or the feudal land system used in areas of the west coast. Purportedly, two bags of Sandveld Hereboontjies were sent to Buckingham palace each year after the first British occupation in 1795, and there is record of at least one family referring to the beans as bloubloedboontjies, or "little blue-blood beans."
Some old recipes from C. Louis Leipolt’s essays – "Polfyntjies vir die proe" (1963) suggest boiling the beans in water and eating them plain and cold, only with a bit of salt, as a side dish, or serve them as a salad with a simple mixture of vinegar and pepper, a pinch of mustard and a little oil.
South African chef Kobus van der Merwe (a member of Slow Food Chefs Alliance) has been using these beans since 2009, first at his bistro Oep ve Koep and now at his acclaimed restaurant Wolfgat. Located in the historic west coast fishing village come holiday destination of Paternoster, van der Merwe has seen the number of farmers cultivating Hereboontjies dwindle. van der Merwe now relies on one farmer for his supply.

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Territory

StateSouth Africa
Region

Western Cape

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Legumes

Nominated by:Jenny Willis e Melissa de Billot