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Long Valor Beans
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Long Valor bean plants form beautiful, large, fragrant flowers that turn into pods that measure about 5 inches long. The long, thin, round pods are similar to French beans. When young, the small green pods have tender shells with soft, kidney-shaped beans inside that can be eaten whole. Once the pods get larger, they get tough and inedible, with strings that must be removed, so the beans must be shelled. At this stage, the beans are larger and plumper. At any stage, Long Valor beans have a bitter flavor balanced with a mild green vegetal taste.
Fresh Long Valor beans are available in the fall and winter, while dried Long Valor beans are available year round.
Long Valor beans (Lablab purpureus) are known by many different names. Valor beans generally come in several different varieties found around the world, with a confusing array of names. Long Valor beans specifically are popular in India, where the long, round variety is called valor or valor papdi. This variety is not to be confused with the broad, flat variety sometimes called papdi or surti papdi. Other names for the Long Valor bean are hyacinth bean, dolichos lablab, and vaal, among many others.
Long valor beans contain a variety of important nutrients, such as protein, folate, magnesium, iron, potassium soluble fiber, zinc, and vitamin B6. The dry beans are sometimes considered toxic, so should be thoroughly cooked before eating.
Valor beans are good in stir-fries and cooked with a variety of other vegetables such as onions, peas, and eggplants. Because they can be bitter, they go well with blander vegetables such as potatoes, and with strong spices such as cumin. Smaller pods can be eaten whole, with the beans inside the pods. For larger bean pods, remove the beans from the pods and discard the pods. Soak in salt water to reduce the amount of time they need to be cooked, drain, and cook in more salt water for about 20 minutes. Fresh Long Valor beans can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week.
Long Valor beans, along with their short, broad cousins, are popular in several Indian dishes such as the Gujarati recipe called Undhiyu. In some parts of the world, valor bean plants have additional uses beyond the culinary. For example, they are used as cover crops for agricultural fields and as livestock forage. Because valor beans are legumes, these plants add nitrogen back to the soil so they can serve as an important soil enhancer.
Valor beans are native to India and grow best in subtropical and tropical regions where they can enjoy warm temperatures and plenty of water. Today they are often grown in India, southern and eastern Africa, southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Australia. They are thought to have been cultivated for at least 3000 years.