Beans, which go under a variety of names in Spanish – alubias, fabas, fríjoles, habichuelas – are native to the Americas. After their introduction into Spain, cultivation spread fast, and by the middle of the 16th century, they had become perfectly acclimatized in a number of European countries.
Among the varieties grown in Spain are the famous PGI Judías de El Barco de Ávila from the provinces of Ávila and Salamanca (Castile-León). Also from Castile-León are the PGI Alubia de La Bañeza beans, which represent various local varieties.
Further north, in the Principality of Asturias, we find the much-praised PGI Faba Asturiana beans. These are large, kidney-shaped beans with a creamy-white color. Since the 19th century, they have been one of the region’s main crops and are the essential ingredient in the most representative of Asturian dishes, fabada. The term faba is also used in the neighboring region of Galicia, where the most famous are the PGI Faba de Lourenzá beans from the Mariña district in the province of Lugo. The local varieties – faba Galaica, faba do Marisco and faba Verdina – are tender and firm and have very thin skin.
Other well-known Spanish varieties are the dark red Alubias de Tolosa beans in Basque Country, the red caparrón beans from La Rioja and Burgos, and the large judión from La Granja in Segovia. Beans are tremendously versatile and have given rise to a multitude of recipes using pork, game, vegetables, and even fish and shellfish.
Paella is not only a Spanish gastronomic icon, but also probably one of this country's most widely-imitated dishes. But rice is cooked in a multitude of ways in Spain, not only in the traditional shallow paella pan that gives that dish its name. Classic rice dishes are also made in the typical pucheros (stewpots) and cazuelas (earthenware casseroles). Whereas Paella is usually cooked directly over the heat, rice dishes in a casserole are often finished in the oven.
Rice is so versatile it can be combined with an endless range of foods – fish, shellfish, meat, vegetables and many others – and it goes equally well with savory or sweet flavors. In fact, one of the most traditional dishes in Asturias is arroz con leche (rice pudding).
Rice dishes are usually named after their most significant ingredient, i.e. shellfish paella, or rabbit paella. Or they may be named after their color, such as black rice made with squid ink, or golden rice – named for the color of the crust after baking. Valencia, the first region in Spain to cultivate rice, was the birthplace of rice cuisine and continues to exemplify rice in gastronomy. The best-known paella recipe is for paella Valenciana, which typically combines rabbit and chicken with vegetables that include native green bean varieties garrofón, ferraúra and tavella.