Cranberry beans spilled out of a large bucket at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. Their weird color attracted my attention. I had no idea what they were.
The farmer at the stall told us about the cranberry beans, that they were her favorite. She said that when they’re fresh (like they were at her stall), you didn’t have to soak them. They were really easy to prepare. That’s when I got all excited.
She said that after shelling them, she gently boils the cranberry beans until they’re ready (she said it takes about 10 minutes; it took me about 20 minutes). Then she just sautés them with garlic, salt and pepper.
That sounded fabulous! I bought a bunch.
I, however, yearned for a salad with greens. I grew up with green salads combined with a lot of things (leftovers, oftentimes), and I gotta tell ya. Lots of things in salads are delicious. So the recipe for the salad I made is below. However, a little history of the cranberry bean comes first.
Cranberry Bean History
Beans in General
Beans species are thought to have diverged in South America and Mesoamerica (central America, the far northern bit of South America, and Mexico) about 11,000 years ago. South American beans (Andean gene pool) extend from southern Peru to northwestern Argentina. Andean gene pool beans are recognized by their large seed. By comparison, Mesoamerican beans, which are found from Mexico and Central America to Venezuela, have much smaller seeds (Hirst 2012).
Archaeological evidence for wild bean landraces is really early. In Argentina, domesticated beans date as far back as 10,000 years ago. In Mexico, they date back to 7,000 years ago.
Although bean starch grains were found in the Peruvian Andes dating to between 9,600 and 7,800 years ago, archaeological evidence for cultivation of domesticated beans comes much later:
- 2,500 years ago: Tehuacan Valley (in Mexico),
- 2,100 years ago: Oaxaca Valley (in Mexico), and
- 1,300 years ago: Ocampo (in Mexico [Hirst 2012]).
Cranberry beans fall into the Andean bean category. They are part of the Nueva Granada (Colombia) variety (Hirst 2012). Nueva Granada beans are thought to have originated in the northwest portion of South America. This covered the dispersal area from 11,000 years ago (Kelly 2010:4; Figures 2 and 3).
Cranberry Bean Salad Recipe
This leads us to now: the Cranberry Bean salad recipe. It’s really simple. It’s also really flexible. I used ingredients mostly purchased at the farmers market, and what I already had on hand. Feel free to do the same and improvise. You don’t even have to use cranberry beans!
This recipe makes one serving. Multiply for more.
Cranberry Bean Salad Ingredients
- 23 cranberry beans (from about 4 to 7 pods) (you can use any other bean – I’m sure it will be delicious, just different)
- 4 to 6 nuts and about 10 to 20 seeds
- about 1 1/2 cups leafy greens (to make a large fistful chopped)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 shallot clove
- 2 small salad tomatoes
- small cut noodles (I used orecchiette)
- 2 tsp olive oil (flexible)
- Salad dressing (I like a little toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper)
- 4 containers
- 1 small one for the shelled cranberry beans
- 1 small one for the diced garlic and shallot
- 1 small one for the seeds and chopped nuts
- 1 large one for the chopped tomatoes and leafy greens
1). Shelling the Cranberry Beans
First shell the cranberry beans. I cut the ends of the pod, then opened it at the seam with my fingers. This revealed the beans inside.
The number of beans in each pod varied: generally from two to five.
Cranberry Beans in Split-Open Shell by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. I cut the tips of the shell ends, then pry the shell open with my fingers. If there’s no good opening, you can slit the seam with a knife.
For my single serving, I stopped at 23 cranberry beans, pictured below. Feel free to use as many as you desire.
Put the cranberry beans aside in a small dish.
2). Chop or Hammer the Nuts and Seeds
I used almonds and sunflower seeds. Of course, the sunflower seeds don’t need chopping, but it’s nice if the nuts are in small pieces. You can cut them with a knife. Or you can wrap them in a towel and pound them a couple times with a hammer. Be careful, you don’t want to pulverize them.
You can also buy chopped nuts. These are fine.
Nuts and Seeds by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Four almonds and about a couple of teaspoons of sunflower seeds. Note: it is not a big deal if you don’t chop anything. Au natural is groovy too.
Place seeds and chopped nuts in container.
3). Dice the Shallot and Garlic
Split-Ended Garlic by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Garlic clove: note the ends sliced before peeling. This is step one for a method to easily peel and dice garlic and shallots. This is shown in full with a shallot below.
Dice both the shallot and garlic cloves. There are many good ways to do this. I use the way my dad taught me. Before peeling, I chop off the ends of the cloves. Then the peel comes right off. I then dice them. The method is shown below.
In the end, place in a separate small dish.
4). Cut the Leafy Greens
Next, cut or tear the leafy greens into smaller pieces for the green part of the cranberry bean salad. I use mixed greens. They’re readily available in my part of the world and a lot of varieties are in season. However, any greens will do. I cut up about a grown man’s fist size (about two of my fists), if they were loosely wadded up.
Torn Leafy Greens by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You have no idea how much I love leafy greens. They make me feel better instantly than possibly anything. These are torn and mixed.
Place the leafy greens in the larger bowl.
5). Chop the Tomatoes
Two Magic Mountain Tomatoes by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Two Magic Mountain tomatoes. You have no idea how much I love these things. They are packed with flavor. You can use any kind of tomato you want though. This salad is for you.
Chop two small salad tomatoes or one large one. These are Magic Mountain tomatoes, and they are the most delicious one in the universe! I include seeds and all, but you don’t have to. I know a lot of people don’t like the seeds and goop. I kind of do, because it cuts down on the salad dressing I need.
Place the chopped tomatoes in the leafy greens bowl.
6). Boil the Beans and Pasta
The cranberry beans and orecchiette pasta I used took exactly the same amount of time to cook, so I just boiled them together. It took about 20 minutes. I knew the beans were ready when my fork slid into them easily. If you use a different pasta, add it sooner or after the beans, depending on its cooking time. Note: the farmer said that the beans took her about 10 minutes to cook.
Another note: the cranberry beans turn tan when boiling. They lose their lovely cranberry spots. Do not despair! They still taste lovely.
7). Sauté Beans, Pasta, Garlic, and Shallot
Add the cooked cranberry beans and pasta (without the water), diced garlic and shallot, and olive oil to a skillet or frying pan. Sauté. Take care that the garlic doesn’t burn. This may sound terrible, but I do my sautéing at medium to medium-high heat. It should only take a minute or two.
Sauté Cooked Cranberry Beans and Pasta by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Sauté cooked cranberry beans and pasta. Note: the cranberry beans will have lost their cranberry colored patches while boiling, turning them a light tan color. They are still tender and delicious.
8). Assemble the Cranberry Bean Salad
Add the sautéed beans, pasta, garlic, and shallot to the leafy greens and tomatoes. Then add your favorite salad dressing. I like a little toasted sesame oil with salt and pepper. Voilá! Cranberry bean salad!
Cranberry Bean Salad by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. The final product! Cranberry bean salad. Add your favorite dressing and enjoy! I like a little toasted sesame oil with salt and pepper.
Hirst, K. Kris
2012 Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L): the History of the Bean. About.com (published after March 2012 [no exact post date, but there is a reference to a March 2012 source]). Electronic document, http://archaeology.about.com/od/bcthroughbl/qt/Bean-History.htm, accessed October 15, 2012.
Kelly, James D.
2010 The Story of Bean Breeding. White Paper prepared for BeanCAP and PBG Works on the topic of dry bean production and breeding research in the U.S. Michigan State University, East Lansing. Electronic document, http://www.css.msu.edu/Bean/_pdf/Story_of_Bean_Breeding_in_the_US.pdf, accessed October 15, 2012.
Cranberry Bean Salad: Fall Recipe and a Wee Bit of History by S is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.