Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco (Tongue of Fire Bean)
Creamy heirloom Italian bush bean with flaming red streaks on off-white seeds and pods. Great stewed and served over polenta or cooked with pasta in soups. Also eaten as a young, tender green bean. My friend Rachel Sayet sent me a Mohegan succotash recipe that calls for “Dwarf Horticultural Beans,” a type of cranberry bean that came to the U.S. in the 1800s from Italy. The recipe was written by Rachel’s great-granduncle, Harold Tantaquidgeon, and published in her mother (and Mohegan medicine woman) Melissa Tantaquidgeon’s 1994 book, “The Lasting of the Mohegans.”
As a descendant of Italian immigrants who grew up on Mohegan land, I decided to grow these Borlotto beans to honor the resilience of the native people in Connecticut, and to hold onto Italian culture despite generations of assimilation.
Days to Maturity: 75 for fresh shell
Seeds per pack: 40
Planting / harvesting notes
Plant in warm soil at least a couple weeks after the last danger of frost has passed. Sow directly in the ground at a depth of one inch, spaced every few inches in rows 12 inches apart. Thin to one plant every six inches.
Seed keeping notes
Beans are self-pollinating, though it is best to isolate different varieties of P. vulgaris by at least 25 feet (we do 75 feet to be sure) to avoid unwanted cross-pollination from flying insects. For seed saving, harvest the beans when their shells have become dried and crispy on the plants. Lay out the pods in a dry, sunny place to dry down further. Shell the beans and lay out the seeds in a well ventilated place away from direct sunlight for at least another few days to a week before storing for next year.