Know your Nuña bean - Introduction
- The nuña bean (pronounced noonya) is an Andean subspecies, Phaseolus vulgaris subsp. nunas, formerly Phaseolus vulgaris (Nuñas Group).
- The nuña bean has round, multicoloured seeds that resemble pigeon eggs.
- When cooked on high heat, the bean explodes, exposing the inner part, in the manner of popcorn and other puffed grains.
- The nuña bean is a thick-skinned variety of the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, and is grown in the high Andes at 2-3,000 metres above sea level.
- Found at pre-Inca archaeological sites, the bean is a popular staple in many areas of Ecuador and Peru.
Know your Nuña bean - Varieties
- Over the centuries, at least 33 varieties of nuña bean have been developed.
- They come in several colours; especially popular are the grey and white speckled (nuña azul) and light red (nuña mani) varieties.
- There is also a white nuña bean found at Cajabamba called the pigeon's egg, or huevo de paloma, which is unrivalled in popping, taste and crunchiness.
- There are numerous nuña varieties available in the highlands of Peru and in similar locales near the equator.
- Over the years, about 50 varieties have been collected and are held in various seed trusts around the world. Quite a few of these are held in restricted trusts that do not permit patenting of their germplasm.
Know your Nuña bean - Cultivation
- Nuña beans are native pole beans from South America.
- They are day length sensitive requiring 12 hours of light per day to produce a crop.
- Nuña beans are unique in "popping" when heated either in a hot air popper or in a pan with a bit of oil.
- They pop vigorously similar to popcorn but with only 2x to 4x expansion in volume compared to popcorn with 25x to 40x expansion.
- They are not adapted to temperate climes. The bean is susceptible to both frost and high temperatures.
- It needs abundant moisture, short day lengths and approximately 200 days to crop.
- Because of these restrictive cultural requirements, production of nuña beans outside highland tropical areas has not been conducted successfully on a large scale.
Know your Nuña bean - Cuisine
- The ease with which the beans are cooked may, in part, explain their popularity. At the altitudes where nuña beans are cultivated, water boils at a temperature closer to 90 than 100 degrees Celcius. This makes cooking with boiling water a slow process.
- Nuña beans, however, are not boiled; they are heated in a thin layer of oil for 2-4 minutes, which causes the bean to "pop."
- The exploded beans have a flavour reminiscent of peanuts and a consistency much like popcorn.