Flageolet beans are a little-known legume that are most common in French cooking. They are small and grow on bushes in green pods that are about three inches (about seven and a half centimeters) long. The pod that the bean grows in is not edible. The beans themselves are kidney-shaped and, when fresh, range in color from white to pale green.
These kinds of beans are very tender and have been referred to as "the caviar of beans". They have a creamy texture and maintain their texture and flavor well even when they are cooked. Much like the finest caviars, they are not easy to find, especially for people who live in a region where the beans are not grown. In addition to being grown in France, where the beans originate from, they are also grown in some parts of California.
Although the flavor of flageolet beans is not identical to the flavor of navy beans, navy beans are often used as a substitute when flageolet beans are not available. The beans are called for in a number of recipes in which the beans themselves are a featured ingredient. They are also sometimes used to compliment entree proteins such as lamb, chicken, and fish. Finding fresh flageolet beans for cooking is a true treat, but they can also be quite delicious if they are rehydrated from a dried state. In fact, these beans usually require less soaking than other varieties before being ready for cooking and eating.
Many people who love legumes, French cooking, or both, are devotees of this kind of bean. While they are quite difficult to procure outside of France, there are a number of gourmet stores and mail-order companies that sell the beans in their dried form. It is quite rare to find them in fresh, canned, or even dried form in grocery stores. For this reason, those who love flageolet beans often have to order them.
Unlike other kinds of dried beans, which are often very inexpensive, dried flageolet beans can be a bit pricey. A bag of this kind of beans weighing 12 ounces (340 grams) can cost more than $10 US Dollars (USD). By comparison, the same amount of dried navy beans can cost less than $1 USD. For true gourmands and lovers of this kind of bean, however, being able to enjoy their favorite recipes that call for flageolet beans is worth the price.