Hello from inside a shell

A couple of years ago I gave up on fava beans. Don’t get me wrong, I love the things, even without the usual accompaniments (cue _Silence of the Lambs_ joke), and I will eagerly order them from a restaurant menu.

But the shelling, my god, the shelling. First you take the beans out of the pods. (Once, while doing this, I opened a pod and found no beans but a huge green caterpillar. This probably contributed to my inclination to leave fava beans to the experts.) Then you blanch the beans and peel each individual bean. Then you cook them again and hope that you got good ones, rather than bland, overgrown ones. It’s not a bean, it’s a psych experiment. I failed.

After my breakup with favas, I took up with a new bean. It’s called the cranberry bean, or sometimes just a shelling or shell bean. It’s extremely easy to shell–just zip the shell off and there’s nothing else to peel. The beans inside are lovely and speckled, although the color fades to gray when you cook them.

The taste is nothing like favas–it’s like pinto beans, but more so. And they’re done in twenty or thirty minutes instead of two hours. You can boil them up and dress them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and you’re set, or use them however you’d use cooked dried beans.

And they’re only available at farmers markets. Sorry if I sound like an ad for the farmers market junta lately; it’s a seasonal ailment that wears off around November, at which point I start pining for the return of the farmers market.

4 thoughts on “Hello from inside a shell

  1. Andrew Feldstein

    Never got must into Favas. How are they in the can? Sounds like one of those vegetables that the canning process might not kill.

  2. mamster Post author

    I’m not sure, but dried favas are good. Oh, and last week at the market there was another kind of shelling beans called panda beans, so called because the beans themselves are black and white. I’m guessing they’ll cook up indistinguishable from cranberry beans, but I’ll try them on Sunday.

  3. moose

    I’ve been a big fan of cranberry beans for a while. My mom grows them in her garden and the fresh kind is the BEST. I purchased some dried ones online, but haven’t tried them yet.

  4. Wendy

    Favas are one of those few things I’d like to do without, but am stuck with because the CSA sends them. I wouldn’t mind doing all that work if I ended up with more than a cup of beans for, like, over an hour’s work and a bag’s worth of garbage. The canned ones don’t taste any different from the fresh ones I cook, but Frances Mayes waxes eloquent about them fresh, so I keep feeling like I must be missing something. Cranberry beans are popular in Italy, too, both fresh and dried. Matthew, have you tried Anasazi beans?

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