So I am perusing the online seed catalogs trying to decide what to try next year, and have run into a puzzle about cannellini beans. These are the heirloom Italian white beans and we wanted to give them a try. But it is hard to figure which of the several choices out there are genuine and/or good.
It seems that cannellini beans come in pole and bush varieties. However some sites would say that the pole versions are really just white runner beans and not the real thing. Also there are a few “improved” varieties out there too, which while not heirloom might be good.
Anyone on the forum grow these and/or know the history of them? And perhaps just as important anyone have a variety of them they’d recommend?
Information in English is relatively sparse. Try this search in Google: Cannelini bean history site:*.it
The term “cannellini” is generic not referring to a specific variety of bean, rather, to any large white kidney bean and more specifically to the method of preparation for consumption. This is typical of Italian vegetables such as “Piennolo” tomatoes which refers to any of half a dozen varieties of tomato that are stored in cellars for up to 9 months. Piennolo roughly means hanging winter tomato.
Cannelini are a member of the kidney bean group and were developed originally in Argentina. Cannellini require specific cooking methods to break down the natural lectins. From what I was able to find, bush growth habit is correct though there is a “runner” cannellini. IMO, Tarbais beans are much better eating.
If you are looking for beans to eat, try https://purcellmountainfarms.com/ and for beans to grow, https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/beans
For some relevant history, there are 5 different ecotypes among the common bean - Phaseolus Vulgaris. The kidney bean group is noted for genetic differences that limit ability to cross with the other 4 types. Phaseolus Vulgaris has 4 growth habits: Bush, Climbing, Sprawling, and Half-Runner. Most gardeners should avoid the sprawlers. If you want to spend a few hours exploring beans and their history, search for Nuna beans, yellow beans, runner beans, sword beans, or lima beans.
@Fusion_power covered better than I possibly could. However, if you’re looking for something “authentic” (a slippery concept at best) I’d also recommend looking at Seeds From Italy: Seeds - Vegetable Seeds - Beans - Shell Beans - Page 1 - Seeds from Italy
They are the US distributor for an Italian seed company. They do carry a cannelino bean, and the description sounds exactly like a cannelini. If you don’t already know, the -ino ending usually means a larger version of something, whereas -ini is smaller. We see the -ini ending more commonly here (think zucchini for a a young/small squash/zucca). I don’t know for certain, but I suspect either cannelino was renamed to suit American understanding of Italian, or if there is a cannelini out there, the distinction between the two was lost in translation and they’re probably all sold as cannelini stateside. The other possibility is that they are the same and should be properly referred to as canellini or canellino depending on whether it’s at the fresh shelling or dry stage, or something of that nature. From my limited understanding of the logic, I could see a case for either.
Thanks to @jcguarneri and @Fusion_power.
Given your info and what I’ve read about them, it does not seem that there is a “gold standard” heirloom out there. So I think I will choose one of the improved selections/breeds and hopefully get some disease resistance and shorter maturity.