The PB&J Campaign is not ONLY about the PB&J. The sandwich is a great hook, a way to show Americans that fighting global warming, saving water and land, and cutting pollution is as easy as something they know and love already. It’s not about giving something up, it’s about eating more of things we love.

Now, beans don’t have quite that kind of comfort factor, and you don’t think of getting beans as part of a fancy dinner, but beans are a cornerstone of diets all over the world, and one of the best ways to get protein for the least land, water, fuel, and emissions. We’ve got to earn beans some respect, dang it. One way is to get beyond the canned pinto beans we throw in a burrito in a pinch.

Dig the scarlet runner bean. The name itself is awesome. The beans are too, but in a completely different way than the name might imply. They’re not scarlet, but they’re frickin’ enormous. I did a really poor job of photographing this dish, so you’ll have to believe me that they start big and cook up to about an inch and a half long. One or two beans is a mouthful, the taut skin yielding to a burst of creamy flesh inside.

Rancho Gordo (where I bought the beans) recommends cooking them with wild mushrooms and a little too much garlic, so I went with that. I am a lazy cook, and since I didn’t have wild mushrooms sitting around, I ended up using some dried mushrooms – I think shitake and oyster.

1) I started soaking the pound of beans the night before – basically putting them in a bowl with a couple extra inches of water. I probably could have started soaking the morning before.

2) I soaked the mushrooms for 15 minutes in hot water (heated with a tea kettle – not quite boiling).

3) I roughly chopped those mushrooms and set them aside, reserving the soaking water.

4) I drained the beans, put them in my pressure cooker with the chopped mushrooms and a couple bay leaves, and dumped in the reserved water from the mushrooms, adding a little extra water to make sure I had about an inch over the beans.

5) I cooked them in the pressure cooker for about 25 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, get one – seriously, though, you could also simmer the beans for an hour and a half or so, but the pressure cooker makes it so much quicker and easier.

6) While the beans were cooking, I chopped five cloves of garlic, and cooked them on low heat with about a quarter cup of olive oil.

7) When the beans were done, I stirred in the garlic and olive oil.

The more I think about it, this is a wonderful bean for a dinner party. However you cook them, you’ll get all kinds of oohs and ahhs when people see and then bite into the scarlet runners.

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