What are cranberry beans?
Cranberries (Rubus idaeus) are members of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes. They have been cultivated since ancient times in Europe and Asia. Today they are grown commercially around the world as ornamental plants or for food production.
They were first introduced into North America in 1635 when Captain John Smith brought them from England to trade with Native Americans for furs. The berries are small and dark red, but not poisonous.
The name “cranberry” comes from the Latin word cranius meaning “two-sided.” The fruit of the cranberry tree bears two large, fleshy fruits with numerous seeds. The seeds germinate readily in warm soil and can spread rapidly through a garden if left undisturbed.
A single seed may produce several bunches of grapes within one year!
How do I plant cranberries?
Planting cranberries requires careful planning. You need to choose a site where the ground will not freeze during winter months. If possible, dig a hole at least six inches deep and wide enough to accommodate your planting equipment. Dig out the top layer of soil and place the seeds in it so that they can dry out before planting. Cover the seedlings with dirt until spring when they can be transplanted into their permanent locations.
The biggest challenge facing most new cranberry bean planters is getting the seedlings to sprout. Cranberry seeds require a long period of time in a cool environment to break their dormancy, but they do not like being kept in a refrigerator because the temperature is too low.
Another challenge is the length of time that it takes for the seeds to sprout, sometimes as much as five weeks. The best way to plant a large number of seeds is to place them all in a flat over the winter or early spring. These can then be planted outdoors in rows, without having to worry about keeping track of the individual seeds.
These small issues are probably the reasons why most people don’t bother planting cranberry bean seeds. However, there is nothing quite as satisfying as harvesting your own fruit!
What is the yield of a cranberry bean plant?
Cranberry bean plants are somewhat short, only growing up to about three feet in height. Most of the plant is made up of vine and leaves, with the actual beans forming on short stems along the vine in clusters of five to ten. The vines can easily be trained up strings or netting making them ideal for growing vertically. The leaves are large and heart shaped and can reach up to a foot long. They have a shiny green color and are paler underneath.
Cranberry bean plants are self-fertile, so there is no need to worry about cross-pollination. This means that all you need to start with is one healthy plant and you can expect a good yield of fruit.
It takes up to two months for the cranberry bean pods to fully ripen, they should be plucked before the first frost. Cranberry beans are able to stored dried for up to a year before being used for cooking or planting.
What are the benefits of growing cranberry beans?
Cranberry beans have been used by Native Americans since before European settlers arrived in America and were a staple food. The plants are easy to grow and can be harvested several times per year. They are high in protein, fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants and omega-3s. Because the plants are tolerant of poor soil, they can be a great way to improve poor soil quality in your garden.
In addition to their culinary qualities, they can also be used to dye cloth a reddish-brown color. Native Americans made ceremonial masks from the skin of the cranberry bean pod.
How do you cook and eat cranberry beans?
Once they have been dried, cranberry beans can be prepared in a number of ways. They can be boiled and mashed just like other bean varieties and are commonly used in chili. Left over cranberry bean mash can be dried and used as flour or saved to be used as seed for the next harvest.
Cranberry beans can also be cooked in liquid, such as water or stock, until they reach the desired consistency. They are commonly used in vegetarian dishes to give them a meaty texture and flavor.
Whole dry cranberry beans can be stored for up to one year, while dried mash preserves for about six months.
Where can I get cranberry bean seeds?
Cranberry bean seeds are not as easy to find as other common varieties of bean seeds. Your best bet is to look online, as well as in stores that sell garden seeds and supplies in your area. If all else fails, you can always buy canned cranberry beans and use the seeds from those.
What does a cranberry bean plant look like?
Cranberry bean plants are vines with heart-shaped leaves that grow up to 3 feet in height. Their vines can grow up to 15 feet long and have small white flowers that bloom in the late spring and summer.
Harvesting cranberry bean pods is easy, as the beans ripen to a bright red color and are easy to spot on the vine. They can be picked by hand or cut from the vine using scissors.
Cranberry bean plants can be grown easily in containers on your porch or patio, or trained up strings or netting and grown vertically. This allows you to maximize space in your yard and ensure the vines have something to climb on.
Cranberry bean plants grow best in full sun and need at least 60cm of clearance on all sides. They prefer rich, well-drained soil and should be watered regularly. They’re fairly disease resistant and once established, don’t usually need fertilizer.
Cranberry bean plants can be harvested several times per year and will keep producing new pods as long as they’re kept picked. Over-ripening is discouraged by harvesting and will cause the vines to stop producing.
How do I prepare cranberry bean seeds for planting?
To prepare cranberry bean seeds for planting, first air-dry the seeds for two to four weeks on a screen or sheet of paper toweling. This will help them dry faster and prevent mold from forming on them. Spread the cranberry bean seeds out and remove any that are broken, chewed up by rodents or otherwise damaged.
Fill containers with potting soil or seed-starting mix and plant the cranberry bean seeds 1 inch deep. Water until the soil is evenly moist but not soggy. Place the container in a warm location that receives full sun at least six hours a day, such as a windowsill.
Make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy to prevent the seeds from rotting. When the seedlings are about 3 inches tall and have developed their first set of leaves, transplant the cranberry bean plants into larger containers or directly in the garden. Beans prefer soil that is rich in nitrogen and require lots of water to grow.
The best time to plant cranberry bean seeds in your area will depend on the weather. They should not be planted until all chance of frost has passed.
How do I harvest cranberry bean pods?
Harvest the cranberry bean pods when the cranberry beans inside are plump and the shell is a vibrant red. The more you pick, the more the plant will produce, so it’s best to pick every pod as soon as you notice it has grown.
Harvesting can be done several ways. You can pick the pods by hand, though this is a little tedious. A more effective method is to cut the whole stem with scissors and place it in a bag.
The cranberry beans can be eaten either off the vine or after processing. If eating them fresh, simply remove the bean from the vine and rinse. If you’re going to process them, place them in a plastic bag and set them in the freezer for 24 hours to help separate the shell from the bean.
After this, you can either boil them or place them in a food processor.
What are the benefits of eating cranberry beans?
Cranberry beans are an excellent source of both folate and vitamin B1, and a good source of pantothenic acid, manganese, molybdenum, copper and dietary fiber. They also contain good amounts of several essential amino acids.
While fresh cranberry beans can be hard to come by, growing your own is an easy way to reap the benefits of these tasty little legumes. If you’re interested in growing your own this year, start by saving some seeds. Then, store them properly over the winter and plant them in the spring.
You can also check with your local nursery for a more reliable way to cultivate them.
From seed to table: How to grow cranberry beans
Cranberry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is a frost-tender, flowering annual that can reach anywhere from 2 to 6 feet in height. It’s commonly grown as a vine, though it can also be grown as a bush if supported. While the flowers are typically red, they can also be yellow or even dark purple.
Cranberry bean is a high-yielding crop that grows well in most climates and can thrive in all types of soil. Soak the seeds before planting to speed up their sprouting time. The cranberry bean takes from 70 to 90 days to reach maturity and should be planted 45 to 60 days before your last average frost date.
If you’re saving seed, do not allow your plants to go to seed. The seedpods that form on the vines are mature when they’re well rounded and slightly drooping.
Here’s how to grow cranberry beans:
1. Prepare your soil. Cranberry beans need well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5.
Add lots of organic matter, such as compost or rotted manure, before planting to ensure that your soil is up to the task.
2. Plan your spacing. Set support cages, if necessary, to keep the vines upright.
You’ll also want to leave a little space between the plants so you can walk between them. A 4-foot square will accommodate 4 row feet of vines and should result in a solid crop.
3. Plant your cranberry beans.
Plant your beans 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart. You should be able to fit 6 plants in a row foot. If growing the vines as a bush, you can place 2 in each hole and space them 3 feet apart.
4. Water and feed your plants.
Keep the soil consistently moist until your beans are established, after which they shouldn’t need more than an occasional watering. Add a general-purpose fertilizer when planting, then again after the first blooms appear.
5. Enjoy your harvest!
Once the pods turn a darker color (almost black), they’re ready to pick. You can also pick them when they turn pale yellow, but they’ll be harder to shell. Cut the stem and leave it to dry completely before storing it in a sealed bag or container in a cool, dark place.
Can you eat the flowers?
The flowers on your cranberry bean plants are pretty, but are they safe to eat?
Yes! In fact, you can eat the flowers, stem, seeds and all. Just make sure to pick them before they go to seed.
Cranberry bean recipes
Cranberry beans have an earthy flavor that works well in a variety of dishes. Once cooked, the beans break down easily, making them easy to use in most recipes that call for beans.
Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:
All about cranberry bean flowers
Did you know that the flowers on your cranberry bean plants are just as edible as the beans themselves?
In fact, in some countries, such as Peru and Guatemala, the flowers are used more often than the beans. The young flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. The mature flowers should be cooked before eating.
Cranberry bean flower facts
The flowers are typically white, though they can be blue, pink or even a pale purple.
The flowers are also edible.
In Central and South America, the flowers of the cranberry bean plant are more commonly used than the beans.
The plants produce both red and yellow flowers.
The flowers have a mild clover-like taste.
The most popular method of cooking the flowers is to sauté them in oil and then add them to salads or other dishes. They can also be made into a sweet jam or syrup.
The flowers can sometimes be found for sale in specialty grocery stores or grown by herbalists and sold at farmer’s markets.
Where to learn more about cranberry beans
Are you ready to learn more about growing cranberry beans?
If so, here are a few resources to get you started:
Sources & references used in this article:
Processed cranberry bean (Phaseolus coccineus L.) seed flour for the African diet by MO Aremu, O Olaofe, SK Basu… – … Journal of Plant …, 2010 – NRC Research Press
A comparative study on the chemical and amino acid composition of some Nigerian under-utilized legume flours by MO Aremu, O Olaofe, TE Akintayo – Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, 2006 – Citeseer
Impact of common bacterial blight on the yield, seed weight and seed discoloration of different market classes of dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) by JG Boersma, A Hou, CL Gillard… – … Journal of Plant …, 2015 – NRC Research Press
Responses of black and cranberry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) to post-emergence herbicides by N Soltani, S Bowley, PH Sikkema – Crop protection, 2005 – Elsevier
Bean cultivars: classes and commercial seed types by O Voysest, M Dessert – Common beans: research for crop …, 1991 – books.google.com
Purification and properties of plant chitinases: A review by A Malik – Journal of Food Biochemistry, 2019 – Wiley Online Library
Genotypic and Environmental Effects on Paste Quality of Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) Grown in Michigan by R Sadohara, JD Kelly, KA Cichy – HortScience, 2020 – journals.ashs.org