New Food Discovery: Calypso Beans

Calypso beans“You’ve got to see these beans in the bulk bin!”

It’s not often that I’m quickly darting off to find David in the grocery store only so that I can drag him to the bulk bins.  However, when I saw these Calypso beans, I did.  I’m one of those people who experiences new grocery stores as if they were a treasure hunt.  From the produce area on one side of the store to the olive bar on the other, at every point along the way there’s a chance for discovery.  Even if I have no intention of picking anything up from the bulk bins that day, I want to see what they’re selling, and if there’s anything unique.  Heirloom black calypso beans definitely brought that.

With black and white variations reminiscent of the yin yang sign or orcas, they were beans unlike any I’d ever seen before.  (Apparently my summation of the beans was not unusual.  They are also called yin yang, orca, or Dalmatian beans.)  I poured a few scoops of them into a bag and was eager to try them for myself.

Calypso beansI prepared the beans the same way that I would any other dried bean.  I rinsed the beans, checked for any debris, and soaked them overnight in enough water to cover them by at least three inches.  Then the next day I drained and rinsed them, put them in a large pot covered in water so that there was at least an inch of water over the top of them, and brought the pot to a boil.  Once boiling, I turned the heat to low, covered the pot, and let them cook.  I started checking on them at 40 minutes and kept checking until they were soft to the tooth, while still holding their form.  They took less than an hour to cook.  (Depending on the freshness of beans, they can take more or less time.)

I was delighted to see that while the beans didn’t have the exact same bright, crisp contrast after cooking, they still retained most of their coloring.  I froze some of the beans for later and then kept a couple of cups to use right away.  (To see pictures of how I cook beans from scratch and freeze them for later, check out this post.)

Calypso beans for tacosAlthough I’m still planning on making something with them that shows them off without hiding them underneath anything else, I went with the simplest bean choice imaginable first – tacos.  I used my standard spicy taco recipe, swapping out black beans for Calypso beans and adding in some orange bell pepper as well for color.

Calypso bean tacosSome say that Calypso beans have a potato-y flavor.  I found them to be more of a mix between black-eyed peas and cannellini beans.  They have some of that earthiness that you get with black-eyed peas, but only slightly.  They are still mild like cannellini beans.  That said, David has a strong aversion to pinto beans, and he didn’t enjoy the Calypso beans at all.  He thought the interior texture was mushy like pinto beans with a similar “muddy” flavor.  That wasn’t my experience of them, but hey, pinto beans are one of my favorite beans so obviously I don’t mind that so-called “muddy” taste.  Anyway, it’s something to keep in mind if you are also in the anti-pinto camp.

Do you have any ideas for how you would prepare these beans to highlight their eye-catching appearance?  (Vegan recipe ideas only, please!)


    • says

      Yes, it’s especially fun to try new things at the grocery store when they’re as inexpensive as a pound of beans. With the newest hazelnut butter or something like that, it can be hard to justify the extra expense. But with a pound of beans that I’m sure to use, why not?

  1. cookeasyvegan says

    Cool! The first thing I thought of when I saw them was ‘Holstein cow’ beans. I’ve never thought of pinto beans as muddy or mushy — I like them, though they don’t get used very often at my house because I love cannelini beans and chickpeas so much, with black beans and red kidney beans coming in second. You could show them off in a simple beans and rice dish with lots of smoked paprika, hot pepper and tomato bits.

    • says

      Yes, they definitely have that Holstein cow appearance! Pinto beans have never seemed muddy to me either. In fact, it always kind of surprises me that David is so put off by them, because I don’t feel like the flavor is that markedly different from black beans or Great Northern beans. However to his palate, there’s a stark difference. I like your idea of using the Calypso beans in a Southwestern dish with smoked paprika and rice. That sounds delicious!

  2. Anonymous says

    I LOVE that they look like orcas!! So cool! I love trying new things in the grocery store. The latest thing I tried was pickled lotus rootlets. They were kind of bland, but they were really good in a spicy sesame noodle soup. By the way – your first paragraph really made me smile. The other day my boyfriend was saying that everyone hates going to the grocery store. I said, “I love the grocery store!.” And he said, “That’s just because you like to look at all the things you could buy if you wanted to!”

    • says

      Aren’t they so pretty? I love their very distinctive look.

      Your pickled lotus rootlets sound like a fun find! They have a very distinctive, ornate look as well. I’ve seen them in pictures, but I’ve actually never tried them.

      That’s a cute story about your boyfriend! I definitely know people who don’t like going to the grocery store, but that’s not my feeling at all. I happily go almost daily. It feels very cozy to me to stop by and pick up a fresh bunch of kale or couple of lemons as needed.

  3. says

    I love discovering new beans, too, especially if local and even better if fresh. Anyways, I have lots of bean recipes and while I usually put calypso beans in soups or stews, something like a stir fry with tomatoes, corn and balsamic would be great – I have done that with anasazi beans, also pinto-like and it is delicious.

    • says

      Unfortunately, finding local beans (outside of things like green beans obviously) is pretty tricky in Iowa. Soybeans, soybeans everywhere, but all of them are fed to non-human animals. Your stir-fry idea sounds terrific! Good call!

  4. acookinthemaking says

    Haha I immediately thought to myself that they looked like little orcas. How stunning! I would definitely buy these if I saw them in my store. Like you, I’m always keeping my eyes out for new or interesting things while grocery shopping. :)

    • says

      I know! Aren’t their markings beautiful? I got David those taco stands for Christmas. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but each stand is separate. It always bothers him when the shells close up in the oven or fall apart on the plate. The stands can go into the oven for warming the shells and then straight onto the plate for filling. Since we eat tacos a lot, I knew it was something he’d enjoy having.

  5. says

    What? There are people in the world that don’t love pinto beans?! That’s terrifying! Those beans are incredibly pretty – I can see why you had to take some home with you. And glad to hear they taste as pretty as they look!

    • says

      I know! There are actually people who don’t love pinto beans. And I live with one of them! Luckily he has lots of other fine attributes. 😉

  6. says

    Bean Salad withloads of bright chopped veggies and a vinaigrette …..I am so happy to know that I am not the only one that falls in love with new grocery stores- that was one of my highlights anytime I went down to DC to visit my sister…visiting their grocery store :)

  7. says

    I love the name Calypso Beans…Dalmatian Beans is even better! I’d try combining them with purple potatoes and maybe asparagus for a potato salad with an EVOO dressing or maybe a veganaise version. Or with wild rice and some bright veggies or squash. I love your taco idea…thanks for revealing your discovery! :)

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