In case you haven’t heard, shelling beans are one of the best things about summer. There are around 500 varieties of these under the radar gems. We always enjoy cranberry beans, scarlet runner beans, pigeon peas, and dragon tongue beans. Shelling beans can be shelled, dried and kept for another season but as you already know, we like to eat with the season so we recommend cooking them fresh. They have a sweet, creamy and even earthy taste that is unmatched by their dried counterparts. They are usually harvested from midsummer (in hotter areas) to early fall (in chillier climates).
Throw all your experience with picking produce out the window because shelling beans should be slightly dried out when you buy them. If the beans are green and fresh then the beans haven’t fully matured. That being said, you want them to be freshly picked so keep an eye out for that tell-tale green stem.
You may have already guessed it but shelling beans are easy to shell. Ripe beans will be plump and ready to burst with a gentle touch. You can store shucked beans covered and chilled for a few days before you cook them. When you’re ready to cook them, we promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how quickly they’ll be ready, often taking less than half an hour.
More than anything, we love fresh shelling beans “as is”. Boiled in salt water (or light chicken stock) just until they’re tender to the bite. And then drowned in your pantry’s best olive oil or fresh high-quality butter. A sprinkle of crunchy salt (Maldon anyone?) and you’ll be in heaven.
Shelling beans can also be enjoyed in many of the same recipes for which use dried beans. We toss them into salads, let them play the leading lady in hearty stews and star in fresh bean dips. If you need some inspiration, we liked this fresh tomato and shelling bean salad (pairs great with some heirlooms), or this roasted vegetable and farro soup. Not to be forgotten is this shell bean ragout we can’t stop talking about.
There are hundreds of opportunities with all the different types of shelling beans so we would love to hear what you’re doing with them. Tag us on Instagram or shoot us a message so we can share in your shelling bean adventures.