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The official website of Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, low carb pioneers and authors of Protein Power.

Fabulous Flageolet

In days of old, when knights were bold–or as Mike and I like to say, before we had our brain transplants and learned the ways of nutrition and the human metabolism–I was a great lover of beans of all types. I still am, though I don’t eat them often anymore.

To be frank, I’m not sure I ever met a dried bean or pea I didn’t like and it still makes my mouth water to remember sitting down to a big pot of my mother’s white bean soup, with a skillet of buttered cornbread right out of the oven, some sliced ripe tomatoes, and a handful of green onions. Mmmm mmm mmm or as Alton Brown would say, that’s good eats. My dad would have added an icy cold glass of buttermilk to the feast, whereas I’d probably have opted for a glass of iced tea…or in more recent times a perky little sauvignon blanc. But that was then.

Nowadays, I’d enjoy such a feast only for some very special occasion on which I’d decided to throw carb caution to the wind and indulge. But the older I get and the longer I stick to my low carb guns, the less attractive the morning-after consequences of a carb binge have become, so I don’t do it often. But the love of beans lingers on.

Fortunately for me (and for you, too, if you’re a low-carbing bean lover) there are a few beans out there that won’t break the bank in effective (net) carbs and yet still serve up a spoonful of rich, beany comfort. Certainly among them are the black soybeans, about which we’ve written and thanks to which we’ve been able to create many lower carb imposter recipes for dishes in which beans figure prominently. Those of you who regularly watch our PBS tv show, Low Carb CookwoRx, will be familiar with their many uses; we continue to discover (and appreciate) their versatility. But even more delectable (and infinitely tastier to eat as is) are the tender, green, immature French kidney beans, called flageolet.

The nice thing about flageolet is that, owing to their immaturity, much of their carb is fiber. At least it’s a nice attraction to a low-carb cook, because it means that the effective (net) carb of a serving of flageolet is listed at a bit under 5 grams per half cup. Compared to the approximately 15 grams per half cup for most other dried beans, they’re a bona fide carb bargain. Especially considering that I’m not sure could content myself with a half cup of beans, if beans were what I were having for my supper; I’d want to eat at least a cup…maybe even a cup and a half. In “real” beans, that cup and a half would translate into 45 grams of usable carb!

Even in maintenance, that would be a slug for most of us not currently in training for Olympic gold in short track speed skating or giant slalom.

Which I, for one, am not.

For me, at least, a big steaming bowl of navy beans or pinto beans is not something I can feel as good about having regularly. So I thank the powers that be for flageolet.

Cooked fresh, just hulled from the pods, the delicate flavor and creamy texture have earned flageolet the title of ‘caviar of beans’ and the appelation is well deserved. But, unless you grow them yourself, it’s tough (even at our excellent local farmers’ market) to find them fresh. You can, however, find them canned.

Admittedly, I’m not normally a big proponent of canned vegetables in most instances–although I would prefer a good canned tomato to a mushy, grainy, tasteless off-season one and I do regularly use the canned black soybeans, having never ever spotted a fresh black soybean in any farmers’ market or produce counter of any store anywhere I’ve ever been. (Listen up, food purveyors! There’s a market here.)

So I say, it’s better to have decent canned than poor quality fresh in the tomato department and better decent canned than can’t-find-them-anywhere fresh in the case of the black soybeans…and the flageolet.

In answer to the burning question: No, they’re not as good as the fresh variety, but they’re pretty darn tasty. And pretty darn available! I’ve been able to regularly find them at both our local natural and whole food grocery store as well as at a small independent market near our house. If not shelved with the other varieties of canned beans, look for them in the specialty foods aisle; since they’re a French import, they might find their way there. If you can’t find them in your store, ask your store managers if they can get them. Chances are they can.

To serve them as a side dish, I usually drain them and to dress them up just a bit add a pat of butter and a dash of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder into the pan as I warm them gently. And although I haven’t done it yet, I suspect with some stock and a ham hock thrown in, they’d make a pretty decent bean soup. I’m going to give that a whirl before long.

If you love beans and have given up eating them (or at least given up eating them very often) in favor of getting control of your health and/or weight, look for flageolet. They’re a bean that won’t break your carb budget.

3 Comments

  1. Janet on March 3, 2006 at 1:38 am

    I love beans, too. Luckily, I’m happy to have 1/4 cup with my duck confit or tonno e fagioli, so I can accommodate most types in my maintenance plan. My supermarket sells dried flageolets (generally I prefer dried to canned) at 45g carb per 100g (uncooked weight), and canned at 11g carb per 100g. Sadly, both sound higher carb than the beans you’re finding, so I think I won’t be eating 1 1/2 cups of them until I find fresh ones. Sounds like a good excuse to visit France again!

  2. Mary Dan Eades, M.D. on March 11, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Kudos to you and all who exert self-discipline in any endeavor–including portion control. Scaling a portion back to a level that balances carb intake with some degree of pleasure in consuming it is a dictum we’ve advocated for twenty years. Of course, the corollary is that one should avoid an eating a quarter cup of beans or corn, if the temptation is too great that the controlled quarter cup magically becomes half or two-thirds of a cup..or a cup and a half.

    In ancient Greece, the admonition over the temple of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi read: Know Thyself. Still good advice.

    As to the carb content of the canned flageolet, we might all ought to follow another ancient dictum: Caveat emptor! Buyer beware. I have no concrete proof that this company is labelling its contents correctly. I do know that similar species of beans, when green, contain a natural amylase blocker that may reduce useable carb somewhat. I don’t know if this is at work here or not. So again, Caveat emptor!

  3. Tess Furden on March 28, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I haven’t been able to find the flageolet but iI did find Eden refried black soy/black turtle beans at 6 net carbs per serving. Might be something you would like to check out!

    Note from MD Eades: We have been using them and writing about them for years. They’re great and we’re glad you’ve found them!

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