Until Erica Brown (a fellow North Dakotan too!) got in contact with me to feature Cranberry beans, I had never heard of them! Cranberry beans are popular in Italian, Portuguese, and Greek cooking and are often known as borlotti beans. They are similar in taste to a pinto bean or kidney bean, but are much more beautiful. Cranberry beans are light colored with cranberry colored speckles. They are perfect for salads, soups, casseroles, stews, rice, and other whole grain dishes. You can use cranberry beans as you would pinto beans in recipes. A traditional Italian way of serving them is at room temperature with olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped parsley as part of an antipasto spread. I decided to make a bean ragout with them and serve them as a side dish.
CRANBERRY BEANS: ERICA BROWN
When did you start farming? What brought you into farming?
I married farmer Brown in 2007. I quit my job and moved 140 miles from Grand Forks, ND to a very rural area along the Canadian border with a short growing season. Our local economy exists on agriculture. Our local café is also a grocery store, coffee shop, post office and church on Sundays. All the locals have a key. We are the 3rd generation on our farm. Our farm was started in 1936 by my husband, Mick’s grandparents. I help with anything that I can. Today I can be found driving a tractor, combine, helping move equipment or just cooking for the crew. This year we grew flax, soybeans, barley and cranberry beans for the first time.
Who farms with you and what are their roles?
Our farm is a small family farm consisting of my husband, Mick, who runs everything, myself, occasionally Mick’s uncle helps and this year we had Sven from South Africa through an H2-A visa for harvest.
What do you think was the most useful advance in farming such as machinery, genetics, chemicals, etc?
GPS! Prior to GPS, I was very skilled at making straight paths into ‘banana art’. For me (& my husband) it was a HUGE improvement! I love that you can keep a steady speed even when you can’t see due to dust or sun in the window. I love having GPS!
What is your favorite thing to do with a food crop you grow?
This is our 1st year growing cranberry beans. I have loved experimenting with them – they are so beautiful! I have made chili, baked beans & salad. They do require more time to soak or boil than most other beans.
Any memories you want to share about this feature ingredient?
We enjoyed growing them this year! We planted them on our home quarter so we could walk out and check them every day. Our boys loved playing in them and still use cranberry beans in their toy combines and grain carts.
This ragout is the perfect side dish to any grilled meat. The vinaigrette is fantastic with the nutty and sweet Cranberry beans. And of course, you can’t go wrong with bacon.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 teaspoon bacon drippings
- 1/4 cup shallots, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup cranberry beans, soaked overnight
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and bacon. Cook over medium heat until bacon is fully cooked and begins to crisp. Drain off excess grease, leaving 1 teaspoon in the pan.
- Stir in the shallots and salt into the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, until softened. Add garlic. Stir in beans, chicken broth, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are cooked and begin to swell, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Uncover and continue cooking until liquid just reduces. Add rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and brown sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, stir in olive oil and any additional herbs or spices.