Term of the Week: Gigantes
Just what are Gigantes anyway?
a) The name of a game.
b) A cooking technique.
c) A large, prehistoric animal.
d) A type of bean.
If you chose “d”, you are correct. There is discussion surrounding this bean variety. They have a several names depending on who you are talking to including Gigandes, Yigandes (pronounced “Yee-gahn-des), Elephant, Butter, Large Lima, Hija, White Kidney, Runner Cannelloni, and Cannellini Gigandes. Apparently the true Greek Gigantes is also know as Elephant bean, only difference being the Elephant is slightly larger.
They are large (up to 1-inch long and ½-inch wide), flat, beige colored, creamy and delicious. I’ve read they are native to Central America and made their way to Peru, then onto Europe via Spanish explorers. However, there seems to be a variety of discussion around that too.
The Greek “Gigantes” is a runner bean. The name is protected by EU (European Union) law so other European countries cannot label similar beans as “Gigantes”. They can only be labeled as such if they are grown in a certain area in northern Greece where the growers are protected from competition. Laurie at Mediterranian Cooking in Alaska has a nice write up on them along with one of my favorite Gigantes preparations.