Tuscans love beans. In Italy, they call Tuscans “bean-eaters.” In the fall, we use dried beans cooked and combined in many different ways. Dried beans are one of the friendliest foods you can have in your house; they don’t take up much space, and you can keep them on the shelf for months and take them out when you want them. Even after you’ve cooked them, they will stay in the refrigerator for at least a week—or until they get impatient and start to fizz.
In the summer, some varieties of beans are eaten fresh and sometimes raw. At that time of year they are so fresh you can still taste the minerals from the earth they grew in, and it would be a shame to cook them. The end of the summer is the end of their life again, all winter long.
Once you boil dried beans, they’re good in everything: as an antipasto, in a simple salad, or as the complement to a main dish. Different beans are interchangeable in all dishes except salads. The black turtle beans taste much richer than the white, so they are too strong to be used in salads.