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Growing Cranberry Beans

October 7, 2014

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Yesterday’s post highlighted my introduction to cranberry beans and I promised to pass along seed sources. Reading the catalog descriptions gave me a bevy of reasons to grow them next year.

Here’s the Pinetree Garden Seeds description:

HEIRLOOM 1700’s Perhaps the most attractive of all dried beans, this variety is also an excellent shell bean. A beloved heirloom in New England since the eighteenth century, the cranberry-red beans are used in soups, for baking, and in a variety of other delicious ways. Semi-bush type. Grown in Maine. (approx. 50 seeds)

(Italics mine). Bi-coastal moment. No wonder I liked them. Did my ancestors in Maine greet their arrival and grow them?

Seed Savers Exchange logs their arrival in 1825:

(Phaseolus vulgaris) Brought to America from England around 1825. Triple purpose bean. Can be used as a snap bean at around 60 days, green shell bean at around 80 days, or as a dry bean if grown to full maturity. Produces heavy crops of stringless 7-9" pods until the first frost. Pole habit, dry, 60-90 days.

Snap bean, shell bean or dried bean, and they’re magenta too!

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High Mowings Seeds and Johnny’s offer the above beans and describe them as Vermont Cranberry Beans.

With the magenta and red colors of the beans, I suspected they contained anthocyanins, pigments known for their many health benefits. Unfortunately, my cranberry beans became tan, apparently because the anthocyanins degrade with heat. Stability of anthocyanins is somewhat more complicated depending on the food, temperature and pH.

And why their late arrival here in early fall? Germination requires soil temperature above 60 degrees so likely they’re planted later and may take 80 days to grow to the shelling stage. So here they are in early October.

You can also use the Mother Earth News Seed Finder for other seed houses that sell cranberry beans. Many sell bean seed that is organic and non-GMO.

If you’ve grown cranberry beans, tell me about your experience in a Comment.

Morning Gift 2014

Grow