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Health: What Are Cranberry Beans and the Consumption Benefits?

Updated on April 12, 2013
Cranberry bean pods.
Cranberry bean pods.
Some cooks are disappointed when the rich color of the cranberry beans turn to a natural brown color once cooked.
Some cooks are disappointed when the rich color of the cranberry beans turn to a natural brown color once cooked.

Cranberry beans are very nutritional and high in fiber. One-half cup will provide a good portion of your daily allowance of fiber. Cranberry beans like a lot of other bean types are not low in calories and the same one-half cup also provides a good source of protein.

Interestingly, these beans have different names dependent upon which part of the country, or country, you are from. In the eastern part of the country, they are referred to as shell beans. They are called borlotti in Italy. They are also known as French horticultural beans. Typically, the beans or white or off-white in appearance with marks of red or cranberry. In our country, they are harvested in the fall. Sometimes they are cranberry-colored as depicted in the photo, but they change colors when they are cooked to a more natural color of a shade of brown.

The flavor of the beans once cooked has been compared to nuts. Also, once the beans are harvested, and you’re fortunate to grab a batch of the fresh ones, while you might have to shell them, you won’t have to soak them prior to cooking. If the beans are already shelled and packaged, all you need to do is wash and soak them according to the directions before you cook them.

Some cooks are disappointed when they see the colors of the beans change when they are being cooked, but the primary focus should be how good they are as a source of fiber and protein. Once cooked, pop them on your salads or put them in soup or stew.

You should be able to find this type of bean at your local health or natural food store.

Shelled cranberry beans.
Shelled cranberry beans.

The cranberry bean has a creamy texture and the nut-like flavor has been compared to chestnuts. They are favored in northern Italy and Spain. Allegedly, a large amount of borlotti beans marketed in Italy are imported from the United States, but we refer to them as cranberry beans. Our country also refers to them as the French horticultural bean.

If you want the red color to pop out in your soups, then go for the kidney beans which maintain their vibrant color. If you want to substitute a somewhat similar flavor for cranberry beans, defer to pinto beans, although it’s not perfectly close.

Cooked cranberry beans with bacon.
Cooked cranberry beans with bacon.

More Information About This Vibrant Colored Bean

When you are able to purchase this bean in its fresh state, you will find they are in large pods about the same color as the dried beans themselves. For holidays, you could also display the pods on your tables.

You will not want to eat the shell, only the contents. The dried beans have a long shelf life similar to other types of dried beans. The fresh beans should be consumed within a week. In the dried state, they can be soaked overnight and cooked the next day in water and seasonings or your favorite meat stock. There are a variety of recipes you can find on-line to try out to your heart's content! As a side dish, sprinkle with your favorite seasonings and toss with olive oil.


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