Growing Beans for Cassoulet – Choosing the best types of beans and where to buy

August 11, 2022

I am planning my Christmas dinner.  I happen to have a duck in the freezer and since this Christmas will be a small affair of my husband and my two little people, we are thinking of making one of our favorite dishes.  Cassoulet (filled with delicious meats and the best part – soul nourishing cassoulet beans).  It brings with it cherished memories of Toulouse and drinking Armagnac and days when it was just my husband and me.  It’s warm stewiness seems perfect for an intimate Christmas in our snowed in house in the woods. I am a lover all things from the garden – so I am hoping in future years, my cassoulet can become a holiday tradition – made from beans that I grew in my own garden.

growing the perrfect cassoulet bean by Dana Mcmahan

Which beans to grow for cassoulet?

G.Y. Dryansky wrote an excellent article titled “The Secret Life of Beans” for Conde Nast Traveller that explored this famed dish and its ingredients. The bean, being most important to the cassoulet recipe, has me interested.

I have tried to make cassoulet before, to less than perfect results.  I need to perfect my technique and but even more importantly, my ingredients were not right. A good cassoulet will not turn too mushy and be unable to hold the flavors without falling apart. With some research I’ve found the Tarbais bean seed at one of my favorite gardening sites – L’atelier Vert (which sadly does not exist anymore).

growing the perfect cassoulet bean -Tarbais beans by William Newton
growing the perfect cassoulet bean -Tarbais beans by William Newton

The Tarbais is widely regarded as the best bean for cassoulet and carries with it the coveted “Label Rouge”*.  Thankfully, Purcell Mountain Farms also sells the tarbais bean seeds.  So I will be planting these beauties for further cassoulet making practice next fall.

In the mean time, I think I have found some suitable substitutes for this Christmas – so long as I get over and order right now at Rancho Gordo.  (if you are any type of foodie with a penchant for beans, you have to know about Rancho Gordo).

I think the Rancho Gordo Cassoulet beansAyocote BlancoRoyal Corona, or Flageolet Bean  will do nicely.  Rancho Gordo has a great selection of beans…I am inspired to cook all kinds of things regional dishes every time I visit their site.

 beans image by Buster&Bubby
Growing Cassoulet beans image by Buster&Bubby

Where to buy speciality bean seed for the garden:

I haven’t read anything to imply that growing cassoulet beans is any more complicated than growing any other bean you might have tried in your garden. In fact, any second grader can tell you that all you have to do is place them between the sheets of a wet paper towel, put them in a cup and line them up in front of the classroom window.😉 Or just put them in the ground and water them.

*The Label Rouge is a French national sign, which refers to products which by their terms of production or manufacture have a higher level of quality compared to other similar products usually marketed.

images by Dana McMahan (CC), William Newton (CC), Buster&Bubby (CC)

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  1. All I can say is: “Cool Beans!”

  2. Louise says:

    Also check out website or D’Artangnan (sp?) they carry everything you could dream about making for french country food- Tarbais, duck fat, preserved duck, traditional sausages, etc…YUM! Is there an international market in Boston that supplies bulk Tarbais beans?
    Did you catch the seminar on Edible Garden design at Tower Hill today (Feb 23)? The presenter is from Finland- sounded good- I missed it.:/
    Keep up the great work!

  3. rochelle says:

    Louise – I will go check our d’artangnan — sounds interesting.
    I don’t know of a place in Boston to buy beans…if I find I one I will post about it though.
    no – I didn’t do the seminar at tower hill. If you find some one who did go, let them know about studio ‘g’ – I would love to have a guest post about what they learned.

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