Cranberry Beans are often sold labelled as “Borlotti” beans, which are actual a subvariety of Cranberry. They both look and taste very similar, so the confusion does not cause any great culinary disasters.
Cranberry Beans have a very creamy texture when cooked, with a flavour just a bit less pronounced than that of Pinto beans.
In stores, they are mostly available canned or dried; occasionally, you may spot fresh ones in markets in season. Choose firm, plump pods when buying fresh. The pods of fresh ones won’t have developed much mottling yet: the pods will be off-white, pale green or pale pink.
Sub-varieties of Cranberry Beans available to gardeners include Bird’s Egg, Borlotti, Coco Rubico, Scarlet Beauty, Tongue of Fire, Vermont Cranberry and White Horticultural.
Allow about 1/4 cup dried, or 1/2 pound (225g) fresh before podding, per person.
Fresh Cranberry Beans must be podded before cooking. Drop into boiling water, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (about 10 to 15 to 20 minutes.) They are done when they no longer have a mealy texture.
Pinto beans, Red Kidney Beans, Great Northern Beans, Borlotti. (not cranberries!)
3 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods = 2 pounds fresh, shelled = 8 cups
Store fresh ones unwashed in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3 to 7 days.
Cranberry Beans are believed to have originated in the Andes in what is now Chile.