by Lily Roby
Revitalizing the use of local beans in home cooking— that’s what Primary Beans is all about. Currently based in California’s Bay Area, with roots in Southern Arizona on the Mexican border, the business opened thanks to two sisters, Renee and Lesley Sykes, in 2020.
“After spending 15 years working in agriculture, and learning about the role that beans play in human and soil health, it became clear to me that beans are the perfect food,” Lesley Skyes said on the Primary Beans website.
In fact, Lesley spent years working on the Red Tomato team in New England, helping to develop new markets for the region’s farms.
While one may not think of an obsession as healthy, these two sisters’ obsession with beans demonstrates that, in this case, an obsession can be grounded. After all, people who regularly eat beans are healthier overall in comparison to those who don’t, according to a study by Harvard Medical School.
But we aren’t eating enough beans, and that’s where Primary Beans comes in.
“After assessing the world of pantry staples, it became clear to me that these ingredients are often an afterthought,” said Renee Skyes. “For beans specifically, I found cooking instructions confusing with no transparency around sourcing— far from being in tune with today’s home cook. I knew there was an opportunity to uplift the humble bean.”
According to the U.S. Forest Service, beans have been in cultivation for over 6,000 years in the Americas, and there are over 4,000 native cultivars. Primary Beans aims to promote local farming communities’ health, economy and foodways by offering 11 bean varieties grown by farmers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border.
Thanks to regional legume growers and online purveyors like Primary Beans, we can order a wide variety of beans online and go beyond canned kidneys and take home cooking to the next level. Imagine sprinkling your salads with small, but flavorful, Mediterranean-style Alubia beans from Zacatecas, Mexico, or making a dark broth out of meaty Ayocote beans originating from Oaxaca. Primary Beans has made it just that easy.