The Lean, Mean Cranberry Bean
By Chelsea Fisher
Late summer and autumn bring us the beautiful cranberry bean, so named for the deep-red speckles that adorn its white or cream-colored pod. If you don’t mind doing a little shelling, fresh fall beans like these take much less time to cook than the dried varieties (though you can buy them dried, too) while providing all the same health benefits.
Beans are one of the best forms of vegetarian protein available, and they also contain an abundance of fiber, which the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer. The legumes provide us with saponins, protease inhibitors, and phytic acid, which the AICR reports appear to protect our cells from cancer-causing damage.
Cranberry beans have a delicate, nutty taste that is perfect for cooked, fall salads and soups. One cup boiled beans provides 17 grams per cup. They are a great source of folate and fiber and also provide thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese — not to mention a little colorful eye-candy.
Look for full pods that have not begun to wilt or dry out. You can store them fresh in the fridge for up to a week. Do not eat these or similar beans raw, as they contain a toxin that only neutralizes after 10 minutes of boiling. To cook, shell the beans and rinse them well. Cover with water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes, then turn the heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, another 15- 20 minutes, or to the point where they no longer taste mealy.
Cranberry beans have a relatively mild flavor and can be used in many different recipes. For a simple salad, combine fresh cooked cranberry beans, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh lemon juice along with chopped fresh parsley or basil or try our Fresh Cranberry Bean and Tuna Salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. For a great cooked, autumn salad toss cranberry beans with chunks of sweet roasted butternut squash and tangy, steamed broccoli rabe.