The cranberry-speckled pods of borlotti beans gracefully twine poles as they grow up. It’s hard to believe something so beautiful is easy to grow, prolific, AND delicious, but that is the case with borlotti beans. Borlotti beans (also called cranberry beans) are an old Italian heirloom variety, and are a popular shelling bean. Learn how to grow borlotti beans with these 5 tips.
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5 Tips for How to Grow Borlotti Beans
1. Give borlotti beans a good start by planting correctly
Beans grow best when planted directly in the soil. Good companions for beans include carrots, cucumbers, and strawberries. Do not plant beans with onions or garlic. Borlotti bean seeds are available from Seeds Now.
- Look for a sunny location with well-draining soil.
- Amend the planting area with compost.
- Pre-soaking beans is not necessary and may encourage seed rot.
- To increase yields, dust beans with a mycorrhizal inoculant prior to planting.
- Plant beans about 1” (2 cm) deep, and plant them 4” (10 cm) apart. If using square foot gardening, plant 9 beans per square.
2. Plant borlotti beans at the right time
Borlotti beans grow best in warm (but not hot) temperatures (75°F/24°C), and they do not like cooler temperatures. Beans will rot in cold soil. Begin planting in the spring after the last spring frost. Seeds will germinate more quickly in soil temperatures of 70°F-90°F (21°C – 32°C). Succession plant bean seeds every two weeks throughout the growing season for a fresh supply of beans all season long.
In the low desert of Arizona, plant borlotti beans from March 15 – April and again from August – September.
3. Provide borlotti beans something to climb
Although plants are a bush-type bean, they typically reach heights of about 24” (61 cm) and benefit from a trellis or pole to climb as they grow. Growing the plants vertically prevents pest damage and increases airflow and sunlight to the beans. I use bamboo poles near each plant. Putting them in place at the time of planting causes less disturbance to the roots.
4. Harvest borlotti beans at the right time
- Borlotti beans are a shelling bean. Shelling beans are grown for their seeds (beans) while snap/bush varieties are grown for their pods. Typically, shelling beans are harvested when the beans are fully developed inside the pod and the pod has dried out. Let beans stay on plants until the pods turn brown and dry out. You can also cut the plant and hang it upside down in a dry area if conditions are too wet for them to dry out.
- For fresh beans, harvest the pods before the pods dry out, remove beans from the pods, and enjoy the beans right away.
- Borlotti beans can also be harvested when the seed pods are immature and the beans inside have not developed, similar to a bush-type bean. Pick beans before outlines of beans are visible on pods.
5. Use harvested borlotti beans a variety of ways
- Borlotti beans are versatile and easy to prepare. Our family likes the shelled beans as a side dish or tossed with salads or in soup. Once cooked, borlotti beans have a creamy texture.
- Freshly-shelled borlotti beans do not need to be soaked before cooking. However, once beans have completely dried, they should be soaked prior to cooking.
- If you aren’t using harvested borlotti beans right away, they store well. Once they are completely dry, I store mine in glass mason jars with a tight fitting lid. Use them within a year.