We were just about to lug our shopping basket to the checkout when I discovered the bin of Cranberry Beans. With a name like “Cranberry Beans” and bright pink mottling on the slender green pods, I couldn’t resist. Stuffing a few handfuls of bean pods into a bag, I pushed memories of time-consuming Fava Beans aside and dreamed of Cranberry Bean dishes to come.
The Cranberry Beans were just one of several finds we’d made on our first shopping trip to the Berkeley Bowl last week. The legendary market had been lodged in my subconscious for the past two years, ever since I heard someone rave about the tangerine prices. Last week my vague vision of a giant magical fruit bowl was replaced with a more accurate picture of the Berkeley Bowl, a fully-functional supermarket.
Appearance-wise, the Berkeley Bowl is not a glamorous supermarket. The aisles and displays are utilitarian; there are no frills. It is not a sparkling Whole Foods shopping experience, though the Berkeley Bowl does carry many similar—if not the same—products as Whole Foods. But steer past the olive bar, through the dairy and meat cases to the produce section: here lies the glamour.
Organic, conventional; local, international; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet—the Berkeley Bowl had it all. Gooseberries shone translucent green between the cartons of blueberries and strawberries. Guavas, something I’d never tasted except in juice, were nestled amidst the pineapples and papayas. Six different varieties of radishes made it difficult to choose just one bunch (we went home with two). Ginger root from Hawaii seemed more local (or at least more patriotic) than ginger from China. Big potatoes, small potatoes, white potatoes, purple potatoes. Spiny fruit, fuzzy fruit—it was sensory overload. Gazing across the maze of produce bins, I began to realize how many different fruits and vegetables there are in the world and how few I have eaten. Sure, I can get apples, oranges, bananas, carrots and cucumbers at any grocery store, but I can’t wait to go back to the Berkeley Bowl and have fun picking out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Berkeley Bowl, here I come!
Cranberry Beans, also known as Borlotti Beans, are not nearly as time consuming to prepare as Fava Beans because you only have to shell them once. After shelling, boil them in salted water for 20 minutes until soft and no longer mealy. Then you can dress them in lemon juice, olive oil and basil for a simple side dish or use them as called for in any other recipe.
Sadly, once the cranberry beans are boiled they lose their lovely, alluring pink hue, mellowing to a muted purple. Also dismal, the Cranberry Beans tasted just like any other bean (and I wasn’t expecting them to taste like cranberries). Is their appeal simply in their dashing good looks? I have plans to doctor the remaining beans tomorrow and will report back with the results.