Seasonal Food in Turkey – Barbunya

It’s that fantastic time of year again where barbunya starts to appear on Fethiye markets and it will be around for a few months to come; certainly until late September. The first time we came to Turkey on holiday, we saw these curious, colourful pods on the market and wondered what on earth they were.

The second time we came, around ten years ago, we were a couple of years older and wiser and worked out that they must be some kind of bean. Well done us! Well, give us a break. They’re hardly a regular on the British supermarket shelves.

All of this seems very strange now because since we moved to Fethiye, barbunya is one of the staples in our diet during the summer months and it’s only writing this blog that makes us think back to earlier days when everything was so new and unknown.

A bit of asking around, trying as many different Turkish foods as we could and a few Turkish cookery books later, we eventually worked out that the lovely beans you get as one of your meze dishes in many of Fethiye’s restaurants are barbunya beans and the dish we both love is known as barbunya pilaki.

Barbunya Borlotti Beans

It’s barbunya season

We’ve also done a little bit of research to find out what we would know barbunya as if we were to be back in England. If you take the beans from their pods they are quite a large bean with amazing colouring; white but covered with purple swirls.

It’s a bit of a shame that as you boil them in your pan, the purple disappears and you are left with coloured water and an average-looking bean.

So if we were back in England and craving barbunya (there’s more bite to them than other bean varieties), which tin would we plump for in the supermarket? This is the debate. Some suggest that the Turkish barbunya is a romano bean but Google Images suggests barbunya is definitely not romano.

Others have said pinto beans and a Google Image search on ‘pinto bean pod’ has revealed that barbunya could well be the cranberry bean variety of a pinto or borlotti bean.

We’re going to post our Turkish barbunya pilaki recipe tomorrow, hence the reason for the bean debate. Anyone not in Turkey, if you want to do the recipe, a tin or two of borlotti beans is going to be the way forward.

And of course, if you’re lucky enough to be living in a part of the world where fresh beans are commonplace (like us), you don’t even need to consider the tinned route.

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  1. I suspect these are the variety called October beans in the United States. They’re large creamy beans with puirle swirls that indeed, do disappear when cooked. The pods look just like the ones in your pictures. I am going to have to try this dish – it sounds rather Indian!

  2. I’ve never heard of October beans but the description certainly matches. The dish is really easy and everyone always likes it when we serve it. It’s more of a Mediterranean flavour than an Indian flavour. Hope you enjoy it.

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