While barbunya is the Turkish word for red mullet, it is also the name of a specific bean category in Turkey. We are not sure why the same word for the bean is also used but we speculate that the bean pods (or the dry seeds or both pods and seeds for certain varieties) in this category resemble the red streaks on the red mullet’s skin. Barbunya beans are similar to pinto beans and are usually used to make pilaki, a meal prepared with olive oil, carrots and onions. This meal is prepared differently in different regions, usually served cold and typically doesn’t have meat in it.
There are hundreds of barbunya varieties in Turkish context, and some of these varieties stand out more than others. Certain barbunya beans are harvested for their fresh pods while others are grown for their seeds whereas there are also versatile varieties for both uses.