This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of beans as possible. This is another in a series about my observations about those beans.
Growing up, the only dried beans I remember eating were white ones. My mother was a great cook and an adventurous eater, but my dad was picky to say the least. If we had dried beans at all, it was usually either Navy or Great Northern beans in a soup. Our baked beans came from a can, as did kidney beans. The only legume my dad really liked were lima beans, especially the big ones he called ‘butter beans’, and he could eat them almost every meal. I would need to venture out on my own before I discovered the many virtues of dried beans myself. Who knew they were inexpensive, nutritious, and they came in all different colors and shapes?
Fast forward more years than I care to count, and my new favorite bean is white. But it’s not like those white beans of my youth. Runner Cannellini is a giant among beans. It’s a variety of Phaseolus coccineus, a species which includes the more widely known Scarlet Runner bean. It’s also kin to the Greek Gigantes and the Italian Corona beans. Despite its name, it is not related to the more common cannellini beans, which are usually a bush variety of P. vulgaris.
Runner Cannellini beans have a buttery taste and a creamy but firm texture. Some say they taste like lima beans, but I don’t really agree. They are great in side dishes, salads and soups, and are flavorful enough to stand on their own. We recently combined them with Good Mother Stallard and garbanzo beans in a three bean salad, which you can see in the above photo. The beans are huge when cooked, easily tripling in size. Like other large dry beans, I think they benefit from soaking before cooking. Despite their size, I don’t find they take any longer than other beans to cook, at least not if they are fresh. Old beans of any kind usually take longer to cook.
I love beans served along with greens, and the Runner Cannellini beans are great when they partner with kale. In the below photo, you can see the two served together, with a little bacon crumbled up on top. My wife and I can, and do, make a meal off this dish. I cook the beans and kale separately, then combine in a skillet with some chopped onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to let the flavors combine. I add a splash of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper before serving. Italian cooks might add a few peperoncino flakes as well.
Runner Cannellini, like other runner beans, grows as a vine and is generally trained up poles or some sort of support structure. Will Bonsall, director of the Scatterseed Project, writes that white runner beans require cooler weather than lima beans to really thrive. You can read his article White Runner Beans – the Northern Gardener’s Lima at the MOFGA website. While I have grown the Scarlet Runner beans in the past, I have never grown any of the white flowered/white seeded types.
Runner Cannellini beans for eating are available from several sources, including Rancho Gordo, the Seed Savers Exchange, and Purcell Mountain Farms. You might also find them in a well stocked grocery or gourmet food store. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Runner Cannellini beans. More bean tasting continues here at HA, and I will be back soon with another bean review.