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Home>Vegetable Seeds>Ark of Taste
Rio Zape Bean
'Rio Zape' bush dry beans.
Rio Zape Bean
Item Id: 3030361

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Rio Zape Slow Food USA - Ark of Taste

95 days — 'Rio Zape' can be used as you would standard Pinto beans except, even served alone, the difference in flavor is quite obvious. The beans are a violet-purple color with slashes of dark burgundy. The dark color is retained during cooking and produces a nice, dark "gravy" all on its own. Picked young, the pods make good string beans.

Although the plants grow in a bush-type habit, they are semi-determinate and are not like modern, compact, determinate varieties developed for mechanical harvesters. 'Rio Zape' plants are more primitive, sprawling in habit and do produce short, up to about fifteen inch, non-vining, half runners. They do not benefit from support.

The lore that is told about this bean is that it was grown by the Anasazi (cliff dwelling) people of the desert Southwest and that white settlers either found or traded for these beans and have grown them since at least the early 1900s. This may very well be true however, we have not been able to locate documentary evidence to support this. We do know that in 1957 and 1960, cave dwellings along the Rio Zape river in Durango, Mexico were excavated and many varieties of maize (corn), beans and cucurbit seeds from circa 600 A.D. were discovered and classified.

Of course, as all gardeners know, seeds are living entities and the material found was not viable. We can speculate that perhaps a bean found there had similar physical characteristics to the ones being grown in other parts of the Southwest and the histories intertwined to create the legend of the Rio Zape bean. It should be noted that some seed merchants incorrectly refer to it as 'Rio Zappe'.

Each packet contains one ounce, which is about 70 seeds.
  1. "Plant Material from a Cave on the Rio Zape, Durango, Mexico," Richard H. Brooks, Lawrence Kaplan, Hugh C. Cutler, Thomas W. Whitaker, American Antiquity Magazine, Vol. 27, No. 3, 1962, pgs. 356-369
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