The Pellegrini Bean

Back in the early days of the Herbfarm Restaurant, a distinguished group of diners came to lunch. In that party were chefs Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters, and Professor Angelo Pellegrini, a noted culinary expert. Boy, were we scared!

At the end of the afternoon, “Pelle,” as he was called, said that we did “pretty good” with the 6-course meal. Evidently this was “pretty good” praise for the then nearly ninety culinary legends because Alice Waters remembers it as a “perfect day.”

Pellegrini had come to America as a poor Italian child of ten. Unable to speak English, he studied hard at night and was soon skipping grades and winning spelling bees. He was the first in his family to attend college, studied law, and later got his PhD, becoming a beloved Professor of English at the University of Washington and a culinary writer of renown.

In the 1950’s, the winemaker Robert Mondavi gave Pellegrini a handful of family beans from the old country. “Monachine,” as he called them, meant “Little Nuns.” Pellegrini turned his entire property into an edible landscape, even tearing out the lawn. The Monachine went into his garden, and for over 50 years he faithfully grew the bean. So good were they, that it is said that he’d savor every bean one by one, mashing each with a fork and dabbing it in a whiff of olive oil.

Pelle went to that Great Garden in the Sky in 1991. Then some years ago, Angelo’s son, Brent, gave us about 10 of the beans. Over the years, our farmer, Bill Vingelen, has scaled the bean harvest up each year so that we can finally serve them occasionally in the restaurant. In 2012, he planted 64 tepees of Pellegrini Beans numbering around 1000 plants, and finally have enough to feature them on the menu.

The Pellegrini Bean is among the finest stringless fresh bean we have ever tried. And the dried autumn beans are incomparable.

Because the Pellegrini Bean seed has been saved year after year in Seattle’s climate, it has become perfectly adapted to the conditions of the Pacific Northwest.

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