A pioneering heirloom seed planting and harvest culminates with a pledge from world-class chefs to make a place on their table for a dish that stars Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Bean, provided by the dedicated local farmers who shepherded our little legume back from near extinction.
The Story of Hank’s
Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Bean has a roughly 60-year history. Peg Lotvin, Hank’s daughter, discovered a small stash of her father’s prized beans in a glass jar at his house after his passing and donated the last few pounds of this local treasure to Hudson Valley Seed Company (HVSC), in Accord, New York, along with recollections of her father’s growing objectives and some history of its culinary use. Since then, HVSC has kept this bean alive in limited quantities for home gardeners. Years ago, Hank’s X-tra Special was served at a variety of town functions in Ghent. They were not only delicious, but an edible symbol of community that literally brought people together from the garden plot to the table.
In the spring of 2015, a reserve of 14 pounds of beans was divided between 6 regional growers, planted and monitored throughout the season. In September, Glynwood hosted a community “thresh fest” to harvest Hank’s X-tra Special using traditional methods. These Hudson Valley farms included:
A reserve of beans from Glynwood’s seed grow-out have been returned to HVSL for its catalogue and retail outlets, and is available for home gardeners in a custom seed pack designed by artist Melissa Washburn.
All Aboard the Ark of Taste
Slow Food USA’s International Ark of Taste includes more than 1,100 products from over 50 countries, 200 of which are domestic. To reaffirm the bean’s rarity and special place in our regional foodscape, Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Bean has been on-boarded to the Ark of Taste as part of a larger effort to preserve and revive America’s food traditions.
Change Menus, Change Lives
The Hudson Valley Chefs Network (HVCN) is closely affiliated with Chefs Collaborative, a national educational nonprofit which sees chefs as changemakers who can play a central role in creating a better, healthier and more vibrant food system. The combined synergy between the two organizations brings big ideas about sustainability, health and biodiversity to our local tables.
In early 2016, a new harvest of Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Bean starred on the menu or in special dinner events. Participating chefs were members of our Hudson Valley Chefs Network, who purchased their supply of beans at a premium price from local farmers. They were assigned, happily so, with re-introducing Hank’s epicurean appeal in their interpretations of cassoulet, the perfect cold-weather dish and showcase for the Hudson Valley’s most intriguing haricot blanc.
Special dinner in Hudson at Hudson Wine Merchants, with Talbott & Arding
“Shanty Tuesday” special dinner in Ghent at Little Ghent Farm
Special dinner in New Paltz at The Village TeaRoom
Special dinner in Germantown at Gaskins
Special dinner in Cold Spring at Glynwood, with guest chef Jamie Paxton
HANKS ON THE MENU: