Well that’s what I think I grew! And it’s certainly something I’ve been eating this past week or two. So let’s stick to that name shall we?
1) How to Grow Cannellini Beans
I grow a lot of shelling beans, they are absolute troopers in the garden and kitchen. Started in early May in pots and trays and planted out in late May / early June when they are looking nice and sturdy and have a few proper leaves. 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 they will come up good. Even in a relatively poor summer.
I grow both dwarf and climbing beans but the Cannellini are dwarf, so no need for a tower of canes and string
Patience is also 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, except in cans. And I know they are perfectly good in cans, but growing my own veg is what I do, or at least try to, and I get to choose what variety to grow, when to pick them, and how to store them. Besides growing them 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 not always 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, then pop them in 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 can be true for lentils. Bring the pan of water (with the beans in them) to boiling point and rapidly boil the beans for 10 minutes. Drain them and rinse under cold running water, this helps stop the cooking process. Leave to drain and then pop them in Tupperware boxes with good lids into the freezer – oh and label them !
When you want to use some, take them out of the freezer, no need to defrost and just add them to a pot of boiling water and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until they are soft. No soaking or defrosting needed.
3) How to Cook Cannellini Beans
A quick recipe for fresh beans. I think of France, Spain, Italy and Greece when it comes to shelling beans, you can find them on the markets there if you look, 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 or Basil and seasoned with salt and pepper. The creaminess of Cannellini are allowed to shine when cooked and prepared simply.
I cook the beans (after the 10 minute rapid boil) for about 15 minutes, a gentler boil for this second stage. All I add to the pan is a bay leaf, again don’t add salt to the cooking water it will only toughen the skins. 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.
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 and courgettes. It’s your choice !
I like to eat the beans slightly warm alongside other salads of tomatoes with grilled fish or Haloumi cheese for protein. Simple, tasty, easy and oh and healthy.
I’ll share another Cannellini Bean recipe later this week, a Vegetarian twist on the classic Brandade.
If I’ve tempted you into trying to grow a few fresh shelling beans that would be wonderful. I’d love to be able to share a particular variety that I grew, but guess what the label went AWOL and somebody didn’t write down what she had planted and where……. I do know that 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.
And then it starts all over again…..