Pinto beans (in Greek “barbounofasoula” or “chantres”), falling into the category of legumes, are the most popular beans in the USA and parts of Mexico. They are also popular in South America, Spain and Portugal. There is, however, one important difference between the pinto beans consumed in the places mentioned before and the Cretan pinto beans; the former are first dried up, whereas Cretans eat their pinto beans fresh after they have been harvested from vegetable gardens across the island. It is therefore a very summery dish, as this is the season when pinto beans are collected. As the pintos in Crete are eaten fresh, Cretans cook them together with the tender parts of their pods and leaves (they are sold on their pod and sometimes with some of their foliage!); this greatly contributes to the taste and pleasure of the dish. As with almost every dish, Cretans cook fresh pinto beans with fresh tomato juice and extra virgin olive oil. Cretan pinto beans with their accompanying greens is a starchy and rather light dish that is perfectly comforting after a “tiresome” day full of summer activities. This is one of the first dishes we crave for when summer time arrives. This dish is one of the basic ones of the Cretan vegan cuisine.
Okra (“bamies”) is one of Crete’s favourite vegetable full of health benefits. Okra has a lot of devoted fans in Crete although in the rest of Greece less so. Okra is mainly found around the Mediterranean and is rare in other places. Cretans usually eat okra as a vegan dish cooked with tomato juice, although it can be also combined with chicken or fish. Okra has a sticky texture and fairly sweet taste which becomes delicious with tomato sauce. It is a very summery dish, light and refreshing. It evokes childhood memories of long and hot summers when we went for swimming in the turquoise Cretan seas. The usual question when we returned home was ‘what’s on for lunch’? When our mother’s or grandmother’s answer was’okra’ we always exclaimed with pleasure; what a perfect end to a Cretan summer experience!
White kidney beans (in Greek “fasolia xera”) are the most widely eaten legumes in Greece and of course on the island of Crete. They are usually eaten in the form of a vegan bean soup, what Greeks call “fasolada”. White kidney beans are gluten free (as all legumes) and are full of health benefits. They are rich in fiber and low in calories, therefore qualifying as a diet friendly food. Furthermore, they are a great source of protein and magnesium, while they maintain a low glycemic index (good for your blood sugar level). “Fasolada” is a delicious detox starchy dish full of antioxidants. There are various ways to prepare it, depending on where you are. Cretans make their “fasolada” using tomato juice from freshly squeezed tomatoes, carrots, celery and of course extra virgin olive oil.