These beans go by many names and come in a wide range of subtle color variations. Called both borlotti and cranberry interchangeably, they are not to be confused with what are referred to as True Red Vermont Cranberry, a pole bean variety with a beautiful crimson seed coat, and long culinary tradition amongst indigenous communities in the Northeast. We often call them borlotti to keep things less confusing.
All of varieties of these are good shelling beans while green and in the process of maturing to a dry bean, and they make an incredible, delicate, more thinly skinned bean that makes great starchy broths in stews and are surprisingly good as a refried bean. These beans have been grown by either Misty Brook Farm in Maine or else Morningstar Farm in Vermont.
Like the rest of P. Vulgaris (common beans…vulgaris just means “common” in Latin), these beans originated in the lands now referred to as South and Central America. Peru and Oaxaca in particular were and are hotbeds of biodiversity. Through the dismal history of colonialism, the beans found their way to Europe where they spent the last five-hundred years becoming a staple in the cuisine there, much like their kin: tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Borlotti, like cannellini beans, are now indispensable to Italian cuisine.