If you've traveled in Latin America, even briefly, chances are you've enjoyed the meaty texture and robust flavor of Black Turtle bean. This amazing bean variety is beloved throughout that region. The tiny, purple-black bean is called by many local names: frijoles negros, zaragoza, judía negra, poroto negro, caraota o habichuela negra, and more. It's served in burritos, as refried beans, soup and countless other ways. It's appreciated even far outside the region, being a frequent ingredient in Cajun cookery. Black Turtle bean is even used in Punjab, India, where it's referred to as maa ki daal.
Part of the bean's appeal no doubt rests on its reputation as an easy grower. The plants are early, reliable and incredibly productive. Our line is grown in Montana, if that tells you anything. We've even seen them make a crop in northern Maine, known for its cool summer weather and short growing season. Even there, 20 feet of row yielded over two pounds of beans, from a single packet! So it's definitely a bean that can be grown successfully throughout nearly the entire US.
Growing the vigorous bush to half-runner plants is simple. Just pop them into prepared garden soil, not more than about an inch deep, in full sun and after all danger of spring frosts has passed. Soaking for a few hours ahead of time may speed germination. Control weeds, water if the weather is very dry, and wait for the pods to set on, fill out, and finally dry. (Our Maine grower had to remove the pods ahead of frost and allow them to finish drying indoors.) Maturity comes in 95-105 days.
But Black Turtle is more than just an easy, reliable main-crop dry bean. The firm beans are delicious, with a rich signature flavor that's unmistakable! And it's especially nutritious, too: its dark purple color indicates its high anthocyanin content. In fact, the beans contain more anthocyanins than any other bean, according to one recent study, making them extremely high in these anti-oxidant phytonutrients! When boiled, the rich purple color infuses into the cooking water from the beans, making a deep purple-black pot liquor. This water, if not served with the beans, can be further mixed with seasonings and served as a broth, sometimes called sopa negra, or employed for its color in dishes such as gallo pinto. The delicious beans also possess a very low glycemic index, making them suitable for use by diabetics and anyone looking to take off a few pounds.