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Italians love beans and the huge variety of beans we carry is a testament to that. In the markets, you see crates piled high with fancy thin filet beans, long flat beans, and plump shelling beans. We have them all, in green, purple, yellow, and speckles. The selection can be a little overwhelming, so we have summarized the important differences in this article.
The primary categories of beans are those you eat fresh during summer and those you let dry and save for delicious winter dishes. Another way to categorize beans is by the way they are grown: Pole beans, grown on trellises, and bush beans, which require no support.
Pole beans are more prolific than bush beans, and many people think they have the best flavor. They take up less space in the garden because they grow vertically. They do require stout trellising, but you will be rewarded with outstanding fresh beans throughout the summer.
People in this country often call any flat Italian pole beans by the generic name “Roma beans,” but we know that’s not right. We carry four kinds of flat pole beans: Supermarconi (green pods - both white and black seeded); Meraviglia di Venezia (yellow pods); and the tasty Northern Italian Smeraldo (green pods).
Round podded varieties are equally prolific. We carry Santa Anna (green, pencil-sized French bean); Triofo Violetto (same deal, only purple); and Bobis a Grano Nero (green, tasty and “grano nero” or black seeded).
Then there are our specialty pole beans:
Spagna Bianco, which yields enormous white shelling flat beans that are great in soups. They also can be eaten green in the pod; and Yard Long, the long skinny Asian bean which is increasingly popular in Italy.
Curved beans are special and we carry both Yellow and Green Anellino (Anellino means “Little Ring”). They are sometimes called “shrimp beans”. We also have a nice curved one from Trento - Stortino di Trento, which yields a variegated green anellino with red/brown markings. The Washington Post recently had an article about Anellino beans, which you can read here.
Bush beans generally yield only one or two flushes, and thus require more space to achieve comparable yields with pole beans. But they are quicker, and the seed packages are about twice the size of the pole bean packs. This allows succession planting.
We offer one flat green bush bean - Marconi - which is very crisp and tasty.
We have many French type bush beans, including La Victoire and Boby Bianco (both green); Rocquencourt and Brittle Wax (both yellow); Purple King; Slenderette (also available in certified organic); and Vanguard, a green bean somewhat larger than the pencil-thin French beans.
We have one Anellino type bush bean - Anellino di Trento aka/Anellino Marmorizzato, (curved and green with red/brown mottling).
And finally there is Merveille di Piemonte, a slightly curved, long yellow bean with violet streaks. This is a very vigorous northern variety.
Often called cranberry beans in this country, these are generally red-streaked shelling beans used in all kinds of dishes.
The bush types include Lingua di Fuoco Nano (Tongue of Fire, 65 days, also available certified organic); Stregonta (vigorous, comes in a big 250 gram box, 75 days); and Borlotto di Vigevano (70 days).
Pole type Borlottos include Lamon which is quite vigorous and prolific; and the pole version of Lingua di Fuoco (Rampicante).
Fresh Cannellinos are hard to beat. We have them in packets, regular and organic, or in bulk.
The Italian Black-Eyed Pea is called Dolico - dall’occhie. These little shell beans are great in winter dishes.
And finally, Signora della Campagna, a fresh eating pole bean with plump, red and green pods. The Signora has excellent taste and is a vigorous and productive bean.