The relationship status between climate change and food (and the tools used to cook it) is, as they say, “complicated.” Between cultivation, transportation, processing, storage, and preparation (i.e. cooking), the environmental impact of a particular ingredient depends on many variables, and our ever-changing climate affects the agricultural potential for where and how to grow the ingredient.
The good news is, it’s easy to point to one ingredient that stands above the fray in terms of its sustainability: beans. For myriad reasons, legumes, especially heirloom varieties, are the most eco-friendly foods you can cook. On the agricultural level, they require far less water and fertilizer than many crops (including corn), and release nitrogen into the soil, which enriches it for future plantings. And according to a recent study published in the journal Climatic Change, replacing beef with beans as a primary protein source could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as free up 42 percent of cropland in the United States.
We’re big bean heads here at Field Company, not only because beans are healthy and sustainable, but also because cast iron is an excellent tool for cooking many bean-based recipes, including our creamy Dutch oven-braised beans. And in the recipe below, we’re giving you another excuse to break out your Field Skillet: luscious refried beans, which make an excellent addition to tacos, burritos, and other Mexican recipes, or simply served with a stack of homemade tortillas.