Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a Hampshire garden. I've been growing veggies since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Some traditional varieties and old favourites as well as new ideas. I share my garden with my allotment assistant Daisy the Labrador. On Twitter as @MatronsVeggies

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vermont Cranberry Beans

At last, with the assistance of fellow bloggers I have identified my beans! Last Autumn I "liberated" some beans from the vegetable garden at the home of George Washington at Mount Vernon. The resulting plants I grew this year have now almost certainly been identified. The Vermont Cranberry bean (phaseolus vulgaris) also known in Italy as Borlotti bean, is an old time American heirloom variety dating back to the 1700s. Popular in New England as either a fresh green bean, or a dry bean which is said to be the most wonderful type for baking or in soups. It is still one of the most popular shelling bean in the USA.
I researched the name on the internet, and found a website which is exclusively dedicated to this American institution. There are literally hundreds of heirloom varieties of beans, some of which are: Coon bean, Greasy Grits, Lazy Housewife, Dragon Tongue Bean, Dog Bean (must get some of those!), Tongues of fire, and painted pony.
If left on the plant to dry out, these Vermont beans are the dried type most people know. However, harvest them a few weeks earlier when the beans have formed in the pod but are still moist, you will taste them at their nutty best. Fresh shelled beans are creamy and sweet. They should be boiled for 30-60 minutes with garlic and herbs (not salt) until tender. I've never eaten beans this way before. I don't have enough plants this year, but will save seed and might have enough next year.


At 11:04 PM, Blogger Greenmantle said...

I've had great sucess with Borlotti beans, but they are not that wonderful at drying properly in our climate. The pods are very lush, so unless you get a real heatwave (fat chance!) They go a bit mouldy inside the pods.
Best advice I can give is once they look like they are thinkjing about drying and ripening, pick the whole lot, and dry the pods indoors in a spare room somewhere.

After a few weeks you can shell them and store them to use in soups and stews etc, in which they are really great.

Like all dried pulses they should be soaked oevernight before cooking, changing the water a couple of time, and then boiled thoroughly.


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