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  Tarbais Haricot Production

1986 – The turning point
This year saw the first stage in the revival : soil testing, which contributed to the improvement of growing techniques. In order to achieve easier, profitable production, the maize props were replaced by nets and suitable treatments were introduced. The same year we carried out a market survey, with results that reassured our founder members : the major call for Tarbais Haricots is in the Southwest, but the demand exists all over France.
Finally - an essential stage in renewing the network of growers - a bank with 400 seed samples collected from local farms was established in collaboration with INRA (National Institute for Agronomic Research). From this bank, 24 seed populations closely resembling the “Tarbais Haricot” were extracted then, in 1990, one line that was deposited with GEVES (Group for the study and verification of seed varieties). In 1998, this was registered in the Official Catalogue of Varieties under the name “Alaric”.
Since 2001, Alaric has been a certified seed, maintained by the Tarbais Haricot Growers’ Association and reproduced by a number of producers, all under the strict control of GNIS (French National Association for Seeds and Seedlings) and GEVES. Today Alaric is one of the two seeds which enable the production of Tarbais Label Rouge and IGP Haricots.
The bank of 24 lines is still maintained by the Tarbais Haricot Growers’ Association : it acts as a real genetic reservoir from which new varieties can be extracted.

  Major stages in the cultivation and production of the Tarbais Haricot

Preparation of the ground in spring : the Tarbais Haricot belongs to the pulse family, the Tarbais Haricot belongs to the pulse family, which has a tendency to develop nodules, real nitrogen traps. In order to develop, these nodules need well-aerated light soil, well prepared and maintained. The grower must therefore loosen the ground in spring in order to clear all the "old boots" (plough shares) and break up the clods (surface lumps of soil) formed during the winter.

Companion sowing haricots and maize props : this generally takes place on the same day, between 25 April and 30 May. By then the ground has warmed up (around 15°C), which will assist the seed to germinate and push through the soil. The Alaric certified seed supplied by the Cooperative is sown in rows at intervals of 25 to 30 cm, using a maize seeder. The space between the rows is from 1.6 to 2.4 m.

Propping : Propping haricots on nets takes place about a month after sowing, when the plants begin to put out tendrils. Stakes 2.4 m high are placed along each row at 5 m intervals. Strong twine is then fixed along the rows of stakes at top and bottom. The nets are unrolled and attached to the stakes and twine.

Ridging and the first hoeing : These operations take place after propping, when the plants have 3 or 4 three-lobed leaves. The work aerates the ground compacted by the repeated passage of the tractor during sowing and propping. At a later stage, hoeing takes place again, anything from 2 to 5 or 6 times during the life of the plant, with the object of aiding deep root development and removing weeds between the rows.

Efficient cultivation : Throughout the growing period, observation and/or the results of various tests inform the grower when to carry out a number of operations including : phased fertilisation, the battle against root fungi, insects and other pests, irrigation. The Cooperative’s Technical Service is available to help with all that.

Harvesting : As everything is done by hand, this takes place over a period, depending on the ripeness of the pods (haricots flower 2 or 3 times during its growth). Fresh beans are harvested in the pod at the end of August/beginning of September. Dried beans are just that : they must be dry and rattle in the pod before harvesting, from 20 September to mid-November approximately. Harvesting is done one plot at a time in order to guarantee total traceability.

Drying and hulling : Once picked, drying continues. Still in the pod, the haricots are left out in the sun or placed in temperature-controlled driers (< 30°C).
When they are dry, the producer hulls the haricots using little “shellers” (“bambys”) or maize threshers. Then the haricots are stored in containers. And that is how they are delivered to the Cooperative, from the month of October onward.

Arrival at the sorting unit : It is the growers themselves who take it in turn to sort their haricots at the grading unit provided by the Cooperative. When their turn comes, they deliver their crop to the Cooperative. On arrival, the lots are physically weighed and given an ID, and a receipt is issued. A representative sample is taken from each lot to check the beans’ humidity, which must be between 12 and 17 %.

Additional drying : if the humidity of the gross lots received is more than 17%, additional drying takes place in ventilated, thermostatically controlled ovens.
Grading : When they are dry, the haricots are sent through the Marot, a grading and dust-collecting machine, which removes all the beans with a diameter of less than 1.5 cm, as well as any broken beans.

Colour grading : Graded for size, the haricots are now transferred to a photoelectric unit, which ejects the beans to be downgraded. The mechanical grading is completed by manual grading, for which 4 growers are required at the conveyor belt.

Inspection : Throughout the sorting operation, the Cooperative’s skilled technicians carry out quality controls on the lots. Size of beans, poor appearance, cleanliness... they inspect everything. All the results are recorded on the lot’s inspection ticket.

Bagging, seaming and labelling : With approval from the skilled technicians, the growers proceed to pack the sorted haricots into plastic 5 kg bags. These are sealed using a thermal seamer, then a self-adhesive label is applied to each bag.

Palettisation and heat treatment : The 5 kg bags are placed 4 at a time in crates which allow cold air to circulate.
The crates are stacked to make up 600 kg palettes, which are then subjected to a blast of heat. This heat treatment, carried out with strict regard to a time/temperature ratio, eradicates any possibility that weevils - the main risk to dried pulses - will develop.
Out of concern for quality, the growers’ group chose to use the thermal shock rather than existing chemical treatments.
Storage and repackaging : After the heat treatment, some beans are sold in the 5 kg bags, but some are sent to a vocational rehabilitation centre where they are divided into 500 gr or 1 kg packs, still with strict regard for traceability. The rest are sold to our canning partners who will transform them into soups, cassoulet, “pease pudding” cooked with goose fat, and other traditional dishes...


Tarbais Haricot Cooperative - 4 chemin de Bastillac - 65000 Tarbes - France - Tel : + 33 (0)562 347 676 - cht@haricot-tarbais.com