Beans are one of the most complete and nutritious foods, and an essential element in the ancient agricultural system known as milpa, based on the intercropping of corn, beans, pumpkins and dozens of other plants. They fix nitrogen in the soil for other plants and use the corn stalks as support as they climb and grow. Unfortunately, the symbiosis created by the milpa system is increasingly hard to find and cultivation of the hundreds of Phaseolus bean varieties native to Mexico is also rare these days.
In Tepetlixpa, a Mexico state municipality, Slow Food’s mapping activities have highlighted the extraordinary wealth of native beans that are intercropped with traditional corn varieties (ancho, azul, blanco, pepitilla and rojo), pumpkins, fava and lupin beans, chickpeas, amaranth, quinoa, avocado, nuts and other fruits, vegetables and quelites (wild greens).
Native varieties include amarillo bola (mustard yellow in color and with a high carbohydrate content), ayocote morado (large, from pale blue to deep violet, with a mild, full flavor, ideal for filling tlacoyos and tamales), bayo (uniform straw yellow or pink), mantequilla (beige, cream or pale coffee, excellent when stewed), pinto (pale pink tending toward coffee-color, with dark blotches), vaquita amarillo (pale mustard-color with white blotches, eaten cooked with herbs and vegetables) and vaquita rojo (mottled white and red). Despite their excellent nutritional value and characteristic flavor, these beans are not commonly eaten in the area, nor are they popular with farmers, who prefer more productive commercial varieties. Harvesting them is a complex process, which must be done by hand since the plants grow together with corn. This increases the production costs.
Tepetlixpa, Mexico State
In collaboration with
Comida Lenta A.C.
Emma Villanueva Buendia