I couldn’t go away on my holidays and not take a seed catalogue or two for light reading could I? And it’s not like I have ENOUGH seeds already, it’s just that you never know what else I might fancy growing, what old variety that is now on sale or a new variety – all tempt me. The only limits I have is my imagination, oh and space and budget and time, and, and….
I grow a lot of beans, the French filet style and the shelling kind. Shelling beans are fun to grow, great to cook with, easy to store and simple to save to sow next year. Shelling beans come in a myriad of shapes and colours but the Cannellini Bean is a classic for the kitchen. Tender and tasty, versatile and lovely to grow. Have I tempted you?
Looking back over this post it makes me smile, it’s a little instructional in nature, unusual for me. I’m not a fan of being told what to do (as many a former manager or teacher will testify to!) , but hopefully my passion for growing and gardening will shine through for you and give you some ideas of your own. I wonder what garden plans you have for the new year, what seeds in the catalogues are winking at you?
Happy gardening my friends x
Here we are in Spring and the new sowing of Cannelini Beans is doing well in the greenhouse.
1) How to Grow Cannellini Beans
Started in early May in pots and trays and planted out in late May / early June when they are looking nice and sturdy, have a few proper leaves and the last frost has been and gone. I find a nice sunny spot and give the seedlings plenty of good rich soil and compost, regular watering, protection from pigeons, slugs and snails and they will come up good. Even in a relatively poor summer.
The Cannellini are a dwarf bean so there is no need for a tower of canes and endless string.
Patience is needed, just sit back and wait, water when it gets really dry, plant them in amongst the courgettes and salads or in a bed of their own. When the pods start to fatten up and you can see/ feel beans in them, and as the pods start to turn yellow and dry is the time to pick for fresh beans.
Come late August right through to early October I can eat these gems fresh. I never see the beans on sale here in the UK, except in cans. And I know they are perfectly good in cans, but growing my own veg is what I do, besides growing them for yourself you get to experience the real creamy freshness of shelling beans.
2) How to Prepare and Store Shelling Beans
I’d love to try my hand at canning some, but have yet to find a reliable method so for now they are all either eaten fresh of frozen. Trying to dry beans so that they can be stored dry is harder work, I find the beans have to be VERY dry or they will go mouldy. Besides drying beans need pre-soaking when you want to use them and I’m rarely organised enough for that.
To freeze the beans, they are shelled and sorted, remove any grotty ones along with the bean pods to the compost, wash and clean beans. There is no need to parboil them, simply sort them and put them in tuperware boxes directly in the freezer Make sure you label them, a couple of months down the line and you’ll be standing staring at similar looking boxes wondering what is what.
3) How to Cook Cannellini Beans
When you want to use some of the beans, take them out of the freezer, no need to defrost and just add them to a pan of cold water, plenty of water to cover them, but DO NOT SALT THEM. I realise I’m shouting but that is so important when cooking beans, salt just toughens the skins, the same is true for lentils. Bring the pan of water (with the beans in them) to boiling point and rapidly boil the beans for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down and simmer the beans for a further 15 minutes or until they are soft. When cooked through they are soft to the touch and when you prod a fork through them it goes through easily. Drain them and rinse under cold running water, this helps stop the cooking process.
A note about freshness -
As they are fresh they will only take about 15 minutes, a lot depends on the freshness and of course things like Altitude. If you manage to buy some fresh beans they’ll probably take 20 to 30 minutes to cook. Set a kitchen timer as a reminder so you can check them, you want them soft to bite into but not a mushy mess.
Recipe Suggestions -
For fresh cannellini beans I always think of France, Spain, Italy and Greece, you can find them on the markets there, so I tend to go with the flavours of the Mediterranean – simple dressings of olive oil and lemon or maybe some white wine vinegar, fresh chopped herbs like flat leaf Parsley, Basil or olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. The creaminess of Cannellini are allowed to shine when cooked and prepared simply.
Alternatively drain the beans and then toss them in some olive oil while they are still warm, you can “frazzle” some garlic in hot olive oil and then start building your flavours. If you like anchovies chop a few up and add them into the bean salad, I l ike to add some black pitted olives, halved and tossed in. You can eat them on their own or add other vegetables into the mix like sweet peppers, courgettes and tomatoes. It’s your choice !
I like to eat the beans slightly warm alongside other salads of tomatoes with grilled fish or grilled Haloumi cheese. Simple and oh so summer!
If I’ve tempted you into trying to grow a few fresh shelling beans that would be wonderful. For suppliers (in the UK) both Franchi Seeds and Thompson and Morgan sell them, I also spotted some likely contenders from the guys at Seed Savers Exchange. As I haven’t bought any Cannellini seeds this isn’t a recommendation – my seeds came to me in a swap.