Italy's noble bean grows in cream and claret flecked pods, it is a lovely tasting and strikingly beautiful bean. "Borlotto Suprema Nano" is a dwarf variety, with mottled buff and red 15cm (6in) pods, it grows to just 50 to 60cm in height (20 to 24in).
They are a suitable crop where space is limited, such as in containers on balconies or patio, or as a border plant in small gardens. Perfect for the more compact vegetable patch, or for growing under cloches in exposed areas.
They are good eaten fresh from the pod or when cooked with aromatic herbs like rosemary, sage or basil, and work well when added to hot pots with tomato sauces or in a risotto. Having a nutty flavour they can be substituted for red or white beans in many recipes. U.S. recipes refer to them as Cranberry Beans.
Producing a high yield for its size, Borlotto Suprema is superb for both eating fresh, freezing or for drying. It is the French bean for gardeners with limited space and a love of bright colour and is really easy to find when carrying out a dusk raid on the vegetable patch!
If you want to cook them with style then it has to be Pasta e Fagioli, which literally translates into English as "paste and beans". This famous Italian dish is immortalised in Dean Martin's first million selling record "That's Amore" - the one where he sings "when love hits your eye like a big pizza pie". What a recommendation.
Chef and writer Antonio Carluccio writes in his Complete Italian Food (1997) - "I always judge a chef by the way he or she prepares pasta e fagioli".
Borlotto beans are grown just like runner beans. They prefer to grow in moist, fertile soil in a sunny, sheltered spot away from strong winds. Prepare the soil for planting by digging over and adding plenty of organic material, this will help to improve the soil's moisture-retaining ability and fertility.
Beans can also be grown in pots. Choose pots at least 45cm (18in) in diameter and make sure there are plenty of drainage holes. Fill with a mixture of equal parts loam-based compost and loam-free compost.
If you wish to train the plant vertically, create a support before planting. Either make a wigwam with canes, lashed together with string at the top, or create a parallel row of canes, which have their tops tightly secured to a horizontal cane.
Add to the ornamental appeal of wigwams by planting a few fragrant sweetpeas alongside them. These will twine together as they climb, attracting pollinating insects to the beans, and providing flowers to pick at the same time as the crop
Sowing: Sow indoors late April and May, outdoors in late May to June.
Even when temperatures are not below freezing, cold air can damage bean plants, so don't plant too early. Plant outdoors only after the last frosts, May onwards. Sowing seeds early indoors gives a faster and more reliable germination rate. Beans sown directly outside often germinate poorly or get attacked by slugs.
Avoid problems by sowing seeds in late April and May in pots or root trainers in the greenhouse. Robust young plants will be ready to plant outside within about 5 weeks, growing away far quicker than outdoor sowings.
Sow a single bean seed, 4cm (1.5in) deep, in root trainers or into a 7.5cm (3in) pot filled with multipurpose compost. Water well, label and place on a sunny windowsill to germinate. Seedlings will be ready to plant out after about three weeks. Before planting, put in a cold frame to acclimatise.
Alternatively, beans can be sown directly in the soil between the second half of May and the middle of June. Plant two seeds next to your support about 5cm (2in) deep. Water well. After germination remove the smaller and less robust of the two young plants. As they grow, ensure the plants continue to twine around their canes.
Having shallow roots regular and plentiful watering is vital. Whilst they will prove drought tolerant, beans should be watered particularly heavily, twice a week in dry weather, both when the flower buds appear and once they're open, ensure maximum pod development. Mulch when conditions are dry.
Don’t hoe around bean plants too deeply or you may damage the roots.
Beans capture nitrogen from the air, so make sure the soil contains the other essential ingredients, phosphorus and potassium. So for the fertiliser use something like 10-20-10. They leave the soil nitrogen-enriched even after harvest
Harvesting: 7 to 8 weeks.
Ready to pick in around 52 days. The more you pick, the more they produce. Most should bear pods from late July and cropping of all types can continue until the first frosts, or longer if plants are protected.
Leave the pods on the plant until the shells have changed colour from green to a fully white and red colour. Check that beans inside have turned from green to similar colour to shells. Harvest and shell the beans
The beans will store best if you remove the pods, spread them on trays and place them in a warm dry room for a few days to dry out completely before storing them in clean jars in a cool dry place. Discard any that are discoloured or damaged. The beans will then keep for a few years. Check them over periodically to make sure no insects have got in as you would with any store cupboard food.
To cook the dried beans, they will need soaking first, they are best left overnight in a big bowl of water. While the soaking is not strictly necessary, it shortens cooking time and results in more evenly textured beans. In addition, discarding one or more batches of soaking water leaches out hard-to-digest complex sugars that can cause flatulence.
Before using in a recipe, boil the soaked beans for at least 45 minutes, or boil for ten minutes, tip off the water and add fresh water, then bring to the boil again and boil for at least another 30 to 45 minutes. Don’t add salt to these first boilings as it can make the beans rather hard.
Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean, is a herbaceous annual plant domesticated in the ancient Andes and now grown worldwide for its edible bean, popular both dry and as a green bean. The leaf is occasionally used as a leaf vegetable, and the straw is used for fodder.
The common bean is a highly variable species with a long history. Bush varieties form erect bushes 20 to 60cm (8 to 24in) tall, while pole or running varieties form vines 180 to 270cm (6 to 9ft) tall.
Borlotto beans are known as Saluggia Beans, or Salugia in Piedmontese.
Saluggia is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Vercelli in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 30 km northeast of Turin, it is renowned in Italy and abroad for the production of beans.
In poorer areas of Italy where meat dishes were few and far between, beans were known as carne dei poveri meaning ‘the meat of the poor’. Funny how times change.
Occasionally they are referred to as cranberry beans, from their mottled cranberry-red and ivory markings.
Occasionally referred to as 'Fagioli Nani Splendido'
In Italian, Borlotto is the singular form, while Borlotti is plural
Fagiolo means bean and is the singular form while Fagioli means beans.
Nano means 'dwarf' and is the singular form, while Nani is plural.
Splendido simply means Supreme ... or Suprema ... which of course, they are!
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50gm Average Seed Count 90 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 1.8 seeds / gram Common Name Dwarf French Bean, Bush variety Other Common Names Borlotti Beans Other Language Names Borlotti Fagioli Nani Family Leguminosae Genus Phaseolus Species vulgaris Cultivar Borlotto Suprema Synonym Dwarf Borlotti Italian Bean Hardiness Hardy Annual Height 50 to 60cm (20 to 24in). Position Sunny position Aspect In a sheltered spot away from strong winds. Soil Moist, fertile soil Time to Sow Sow indoors late April and May, outdoors in late May to June. Harvest 52 days to maturity. Time to Harvest Most should bear pods from late July to first frosts.