BACKGROUND The Zolfino bean is a variety of Phaseolus vulgaris, which is cultivated in a limited area of Tuscany, Italy, and is widely appreciated for its flavor and culinary uses. OBJECTIVES A yellow Zolfino landrace cultivated in the Leccio-Reggello area was characterized and compared with three other varieties of Phaseolus vulgaris (i.e. the Borlotto, Cannellino, and Corona beans) in terms of its general features and potential as an antioxidant/anti-inflammatory agent. DESIGN The length, width, thickness, equatorial section surface, weight, volume, and seed coat section were measured in all the beans. The seed surface area was also estimated by an original empirical method. The ability of the different beans to interfere with the enzymes of the polyol pathway (that is, aldose reductase (AR) and sorbitol dehydrogenase) was tested using the supernatant after soaking the beans at room temperature and after thermal treatment, which simulated the bean-cooking process in a controlled fashion. RESULTS Concerning the general features, Zolfino was comparable with other beans, except Corona, in terms of surface-volume ratio, which possesses the lowest tegument thickness. Moreover, Zolfino appears the most effective in inhibiting AR activity. The inhibitory ability is unaffected by thermal treatment and appears to be associated with compound(s) present in the coat of the bean. CONCLUSIONS The ability of Zolfino to inhibit AR, thus reducing the flux of glucose through the polyol pathway, highlights the features of Zolfino as a functional food, potentially useful in treating the dysfunctions linked to the hyperactivity of AR, such as diabetic complications or inflammatory responses.