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I really love growing my own vegetables. One of the easiest to grow are runner beans . Not only are they easy to grow, but they taste delicious and are loved by my children.
Lets get started.
Beans can be grown either from seed or from young plants. I grow from seed as it works out a lot cheaper! In about February prepare the soil. Dig over well and add compost or rotted manure. I use Chicken manure pellets that are widely available. Runner beans are tall and will need a plot that will protect them from the wind. They also like to grow in full sunlight.
Around the end of April I buy my seeds and plant one per pot. I place all the pots on my sunny kitchen windowsill and wait for them to germinate. It is important to keep the seedlings well watered. I am always surprised at how quickly these little seeds start to grow!
It is important that all risk of frost has passed before you plant your beans outside. I usually plant out around May . I use a plant fleece to cover at night if the temperature is due to drop to below 5 degrees.
Runner beans will need support and I use bamboo canes tied together in a wigwam . The support will need to be about 8 feet in height.
Caring for your beans
Runner beans require little care. However they do like to be watered regularly. Young bean plants are very popular with slugs and snails. I find that surrounding the base of each plant with broken egg shells helps to keep them away.
The more you pick the more you will get! I like to harvest the beans when they are still quite small . To prepare top and tail them and then steam. I like to add beans to curries, pasta sauces and have also added a handful to cooked macaroni before adding a cheese sauce. Runner beans will freeze well too.
This is a recipe I really like-
200 grams of runner beans- topped and tailed.
4 tbsp of olive oil.
1 small red onion cut into wedges.
4 cloves of garlic.
5 tomatoes cut into quarters.
A dash of Tabasco sauce.
Salt and pepper.
1. Steam beans for about 7 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and beans, salt ,pepper5 and Tabasco.
4. Cook over medium heat adding a little water.
5. Stir until sauce thickens and beans are tender.
Overall runner beans are easy to grow and taste so much nicer than the ones you buy from a supermarket!
If you are thinking about growing your own vegetables, then runner beans are one of the easiest to start off with. Prolific croppers, great tasting and saves you loads of money by not having to buy them from the supermarket.
Most runner beans have red flowers, but I personally like the "white lady" variety which gives white flowers. They are suited to any garden colour scheme. This particular variety is available for £3.69 for 30 seeds. You do not need to sow all of the seeds at once!
Beans love moisture rich composting material. On my allotment, I dig a big trench where they are to be planted, and I fill it with any composting material from the kitchen over the winter months. I then screw up lots of newspaper, and water the trench before filling it back in and planting the beans. This may not be practical in a garden, so I recommend digging in some well rotted horse manure or chicken manure pellets a month before you plant the beans to ensure healthy happy plants.
~~To seed or not to seed? ~~
If starting from seed, you can start them off in a greenhouse/ indoors in April by sowing one seed per small pot filled with general compost. You can also sow direct into the ground after the last frosts have passed. I know that in London this is mid-may but it really depends where you are in the country.
If starting from scratch seems daunting, then you can order plug plants from a variety of online retailers or purchase them from a garden centre from April/ May onwards.
Runner beans will not survive a frost so make sure you look up when the last frosts are expected in your area and plant out accordingly.
Plants kept indoors or in a greenhouse will need to be "hardened" off, which means they need to get used to being outside for short periods of time before being planted outside permanently. Plants can be put outside during the day, and brought back inside/ into the greenhouse during the night for about a week.
~~Where to grow~~
Runner beans are climbing plants, and they can be grown up against a wall or they will need supports. Growing up against a wall is a great use of space. They require a decent amount of sunlight during the day, so don't choose a spot that's too shady.
~~Supporting your beans~~
If growing against a wall, the beans will need something to cling onto, so tie some string across the wall at regular intervals, or hang a pea net up (usually to be found in poundshops).
If you do not have a wall, then you can use bamboo canes, available in garden shops. Buy 6-8foot long canes. There are many different ways to arrange the canes, but the two most popular ways are in a wigwam shape, or in an A-frame shape. It really depends on the size of your plot.
~~Caring for your beans~~
Runner beans need to be watered regularly. I water every second day in really hot and dry weather. They do not need any plant feeds as long as you follow the soil preparation instructions above.
Slugs can be a problem and there are many techniques for dealing with them. My favourite, which I tested this year with success, has been making a moat of used coffee grounds around the beans. Of course, when it rains, this moat gets washed away, so constant application is required. My coffee shop at work bags up used coffee grounds for customers to take for their compost heaps.
Beans can be ready to harvest from June-September dependeing on when you grew them. Don't let your beans get really big as they will get very stringy. When they stop feeling very hairy, that's usually the right time. You can experiment picking them at different sizes to get to know your preference. You need to be on top of picking these beans - every 2-3 days otherwise the plant puts all its energy into growing huge beans, instead of flowering to produce new beans.
As long as you haven't bought a variety that says "F1" on the packet, you will be able to save seeds to grow next year. At the end of the cropping season, leave 5-10 beans on the plant to swell up. As the foliage dies back, harvest the beans, remove the beans from the pod and keep in a cool dark spot until next year.
~~End of season~~
When your beans have finished cropping, don't pull the whole plant out of the ground. Cut them off at soil level. Beans make their own nitrogen nodules at the roots, and this will rot down and provide natural food for whatever you plan to grow in that spot next year. Make sure you take the canes out of the soil over winter to prevent rot and prolong their useful life.
There a so many recopies out there for runner beans. You can boil for 3-4 minutes to eat with your diner, make a curry, chutney, pickle or freeze for later use. The internet has a wealth of information and suggestions if you are experiencing a runner bean glut.
Runner beans are probably one of the easiest vegetables to grow. One bean can produce a whole load of beans to eat, if you can't eat the beans fast enough they can be blanched (boiled in hot water for a few minutes) then put in a tub or bag to freeze when you're ready for them.
**What you'll need**
Beans to plant
Good sized vegetable bed or a large pot
Canes, poles or long sticks to grow the beans up
String to tie the poles together or a plastic disc wigwam maker that you can slot the poles into (to make a wigwam shape)
Bean 'seeds' can be bought from Homebase, B&Q, 99p Stores and Poundland to name a few. Also available on Ebay. Poles to grow the beans up can be bought from DIY Stores like Homebase, as can the canes. If you're on a budget you could try foraging in a wood for nice long sticks. They need to be around 8ft. If you want to go really self sufficient you could always try growing bamboo (make sure you keep it in a pot - this stuff spreads). When it gets growing cut canes off and leave to dry.
Our neighbours planted a bamboo plant in their garden years ago - not in a pot. It's spread into our hedge, actually I don't really mind, I take cuttings off it regularly and have a good supply of canes, as do my family. I wouldn't recommend putting it straight in the ground, it does try and take over.
**Deciding how to grow**
If you're growing the beans in a pot, you'll probably want to make a wigwam shape with your canes. The pot needs good drainage so the beans don't become waterlogged. The advantage of a pot is that it makes it harder for slugs to attack the plants. You can also do this straight in the ground. If you have more room, you can always grow them in a long line, putting two canes up against each other in a triangle and repeating, using one cane to go along the middle. You'll need lots of string to tie them all together.
Runner beans enjoy a sunny patch in the garden, which is worth considering when setting up an area to grow.
**Getting the plants going**
This is one plant I love involving my boys with, they germinate quickly so they don't get fed up caring for a non responsive plant for weeks on end.
You can either plant the beans straight into the ground or grow in pots inside/in a greenhouse to get them started. I usually grow indoors, when I'm 100% sure the frosts have gone I start them off in little pots with 1 or 2 beans in each (depending on the space I have on the window sills). Each bean should be placed in potting compost about 4cms down into the pot. Keep well watered and watch the beans quickly appear.
If you've been growing these inside or in a greenhouse, they'll need to be hardened off. Put the plants outside for a few hours each day in the sun, working up to full days. They'll start to get tall quite quickly. After a week or two of hardening off, you can then plant them into the soil. Plant each plant near a cane, so it can easily find it to climb up. You can plant two plants per cane if you like.
**Caring for the beans**
They don't need much attention, regular watering in dry spells is needed. Pests can include slugs and snails - if you want you can use slug pellets or lay beer traps if they become a problem. I just keep an eye in the evenings and pull off any snails seen on the plants.
The plants will produce red or white flowers depending on the variety of bean, some birds find these attractive to peck at. Some people tie carrier bags on the tops of the canes to try and deter them. One year when it was a massive problem I purchased some plastic bunting and strung it across the top. It did help deter the birds.
When the beans start coming, they taste nicest when they're not too big, regular picking promotes more growth on the plants.
Runner beans are easy to prepare. You'll need a bean slicer that costs pennies from most supermarkets. Simply snap off the top and bottom of the bean, then push through the bean slicer. Remove the sides - these can taste a little stringy. Then boil for around 10 minutes according to how soft you like the beans.
They don't keep very well as they are, after a few days of being picked, they go a little soft and this makes it hard to push through the bean slice. So I'd highly recommend preparing them and blanching/freezing as it the beginning of this article if you're not going to use them for a while.
I love these with a roast on a Sunday, they taste really nice with the gravy.
**Getting ready for next year**
At the end of the growing season, I keep some of the bigger beans and leave them to dry in a paper bag or paper envelope. That way you can save on buying seeds again next year. The canes, poles or sticks used can also be kept for the following year.
Beans are probably the easiest vegetable to grow, you can get away with growing them in regular soil with just water and a little support. I have grown them now for the last 3 years and each time have been immensely successful - so successful in fact that I end up with enough beans to freeze and feed a family over the winter and enough to give away to several friends!
What follows is a break down of my process of growing beans from seed to harvest.
The first couple of years I grew beans I got some cheap seed from Wilkinsons - by cheap I mean around £1 for 40 seeds. These were good, they grew well and yields were good but my family and friends who ate them compared them to supermarket beans. Last year I came across a variety called "Stenner" and was able to acquire some free of charge from a neighbour (another great thing about growing your own is that people are so generous). I recommend this variety for quick growing, strong plants with superb yields.
Beans can be sown outside in late spring but you must be careful to avoid the frosts, a frost can kill off all your beans in a single night and ruin a few weeks of work. I start mine off indoors in early spring - a kitchen windowsill will do fine, or a greenhouse if you have one. Seeds need planting quite deep, about 2 inches, they will be ok 6-8cm apart. This year I started some of mine off in cell trays (about the size of a normal seed tray but they have 24 individual cells) - an easy way to start a lot off at once or if you are clever you can plant 4 per week from spring through til summer from one side of the tray to the other.
If you have 15cm pots, you can actually sow them in these and they can remain in them for the rest of the year with support (more on that below).
Depending on space you can grow beans in a number of ways:
Pots - a single bean plant can survive in a medium sized pot from sowing to harvest, it will need supporting though.
Bamboo Canes - I use this method - arrange the canes into a tent shape in a row and grow a couple of plants up each cane. You can transplant the seedlings to the base of the cane or even sow directly below - they will find their way up and climb the cane. You can also use a very large pot and create a wig wam shape of canes, then plant 8-10 bean plants in the pot.
Finally, you can actually grow beans up sweet corn plants... they are a great companion crop - you start the sweet corn off which can grow up to 6 feet and the beans climb the corn plants and leaves. This is great if space is an issue.
Beans prefer sun, but are fine in the shade, they just grow a little slower. Plenty of water will be required, if you leave them too long without water you will soon know as the leaves will start to droop literally because they contain water - if they dry up then they will wilt. Make sure the ground is soaked at all times
Pests can be a pain! Rabbits will eat the plants, so will slugs and in some cases birds (a nice family of sparrows decided to start pecking at my beans this week!). I don't believe in using slug pellets and if you have a slug problem always remember they hide under things during the day so don't leave them anywhere they can hide.
A nice seaweed fertiliser will help the plants grow nicer but isn't necessary if expense is an issue.
During a hot spell 2 years ago (yes thats right, there were hot spells!) I let some bean plants get dry too often (my own fault for being lazy, now I know better) and they didn't produce any flowers - I later read that this was the reason so watering is very important.
Last year I let half of my beans run wild to see what happened... the result was bean plants that must have been over 15 feet in height/length (I say length because they got to the top of my canes and then started going across the top of the construction). The others I pinched the growing tip of the plant off at around 8 feet high. The comparison is that the plants where I pinched the top off, they became more bushy and produced quicker sets of beans and more. I would suggest that you pinch the top off as soon as they reach the top of your canes, then like with tomatoes, the effort is put into the flowering and producing of the beans rather than the plant continuing to grow.
I make sure I pick the beans young so they are not stringy. Also, if you leave beans on a plant too long it can stop flowering and will not produce any new flowers and beans. I would say that each bean plant tends to result in about 30 or so beans being harvested. Keep a good eye out for beans because they really blend in well with the leaves! If you miss a few and they develop too far then they cannot be eaten - but they can be kept for seed the following year. I let a plant go too far last year and ended up harvesting around 50 individual bean seeds which I have used this year - the great news is that all that I planted have also grown successfully! I am thrilled about this because I can keep on doing it and never have to buy beans or seed ever again.
I don't eat beans, but love growing them! I have been told that Stenner taste really nice in comparison to shop bought beans, they can also be used in show as well.
I recommend beans because they are so easy to grow, cheap to nurture and yield a terrific amount of fresh veg which can be stored for use throughout the winter. You don't need a lot of space - beans grow up! Not across or down :)
Sow: Early Spring (indoors), Late Spring to Early Summer (outdoors)
Harvest: Late Spring (depending on when you sow) to early Autumn
If you're curious about growing your own food, but don't consider your garden to be of Eden sized proportions, runner beans are one of the plants that can easily be grown in pots / containers and they don't need acres of space to get a decent harvest from. I grow about twelve runner bean plants a year in 3 wide, low pots and consistently get a satisfying to look at and productive to pick jungle of tall plants that look amazing when wrapped around bean poles and have their bright red flowers on show.
Runner beans are part of the same family as peas, the Leguminosae family. You can spot this by looking at the flowers; which resemble pea, sweet pea and broad bean flowers. They are thought to originate from hilly areas of central America, but are now grown all over the world and can cope with the UK climate so long as they are not planted out too early as they don't tolerate frost.
GROWING YOUR OWN
As I mentioned above, they don't like frost or cold temperatures so only plant the seeds out from late May onwards, or you can start seeds off indoors from mid April. Pop each seed under about a centimetre of compost and keep moist - within a fortnight you will have a surprisingly quick growing plant a couple of inches high with a couple of sets of leaves on. When planting these out, they can be fairly crammed in - about 6 inches distance between each plant is all you need. If you're careful, you might be able to squeeze three plants round one pole. When it comes to support, I've already mentioned the poles - I use 8ft high bamboo canes. They really do grow that tall! Train the plant to wrap around the cane and once it has, it will tightly spiral up around the pole - it looks great, especially when the flowers start to appear as it looks like some sort of tropical creeper.
All through their growing season, keep the soil moist and water well in hot dry periods - not that we've seen many of those this summer. Also, they respond well to rich compost in a well dug soil - you can get the area ready in the winter by digging up your intended patch and mixing in a load of compost then leaving it to allow the frost to break it all up for you. If you're growing in pots, this means that there is less back breaking work as all you have to do is add the compost and perhaps give a top dressing every 4 to 6 weeks to replace lost nutrients - compost doesn't retain its goodness forever.
When the flowers start fading, the pods soon follow. Pick them while they are still fairly small for the most tender of pods. The more you pick, the more will grow back so get picking! If you leave the pods on for ages, they may become quite tough and stringy and will also form massive beans inside them. The beans can be taken out and dried then either added to soups and stews or kept as the following year's seeds for planting.
The plants, if kept watered and fed, should last into October when the first frosts come.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Slugs will chomp through your seedlings quicker than you can say "where have all my seedlings gone?", so pre-emptively treat for slugs using the methods you prefer - chemical pellets, beer traps etc. Also, if you've used bad seeds (either from a dodgy supplier, incorrectly stored home-saved seeds from the year before or old seeds past their best) there is a good chance of getting what is known as Halo Blight, called this because of the yellow halo that surrounds brown spots on the foliage. There isn't any cure for this and it will eventually kill your plants. The only thing to do is to dig up any affected plants and burn them before it spreads to other plants.
USING RUNNER BEANS
Runner beans freeze really well. To do this, blanche a load for a minute in boiling water before adding to a freezer bag / container. They shouldn't be eaten raw as they contain traces of a natural toxin, Phytohaemagglutinin, which is easily destroyed by cooking in boiling water.
For the best bean pods, pick them before the skins get too rough and stringy, and also before the seeds start to form inside. At home, we top and tail ours (slice off the end few millimetres from each end of the pod) as the pointed tips can sometimes be a little on the hard side.
Expect to pay a couple for pounds for a packet of seeds from most seed suppliers - if you shop around you will find the odd special offer in places like Aldi, Lidl and Wilkinsons from time to time. The seeds themselves look fantastic - bean shaped hard shells with deep purple and pink speckles, they look like a miniature wild bird egg.
Some of the commonly grown varieties include Scarlet Emperor, St George and Enorma.
If you're new to gardening but want to try growing something that will give a good payback, then runner beans are a good place to start. Seeds can still be planted outside now (early to mid July) and it's amazing how fast they grow. The main requirements are moist, fertile soil, support to climb up and no frost - meet these requirements and they will grow enormous and give you plenty of tasty pods to pick. The full five stars from me, thanks for reading.
We love our fresh fruit and veg in the Sandemp house, the fresher the better and you can't get fresher than runner beans picked literally minutes before they hit the saucepan. I have to admit that we really do like our runner beans and last year I tried a multitude of different varieties so that we could pick our favourite. In fact I probably grew far too many plants for the three of us, as I gave loads away to family members and neighbours and still had enough to freeze to last through the winter. In fact we've only just used up the last bag of frozen beans with this year's plants just start to make their way up the bamboo canes.
Runner beans are quite possibly the easiest vegetable to grow, although technically speaking they are fruit rather than vegetables (being the seed pods rather than leaves, stalks or roots), and as they grow so quickly they are also an ideal plant to grow with a child, with the added bonus that their flowers are quite pretty and very attractive to bees. There are many different varieties of runner bean available, all of which have different advantages and disadvantages. Some of the heritage varieties, while relatively expensive and not particularly resistant to disease, produce the more flavoursome pods, while other varieties are self-setting, or early or have more unusual flower colours. Of all the different varieties I tried last year, my absolute favourite was the Celebration, which is a very early, predominantly self-setting variety with salmon pink flowers and masses of pods over a long growing season.
Preparation for growing runner beans depends greatly on whether you are going to be growing them in beds or pots, under cover or not. If you are growing them in the ground (so to speak), then they appreciate a bed that has been dug over with well rotted organic matter, that will aid water retention. The best time to do this is a few weeks before you plan to sow or plant them, at the end of February/beginning of March. If you are planning to grow your runner beans in pots or reusable bags then I would recommend adding water retention crystals to your compost as the one real requirement of runner beans is lots and lots of water. You will also need to supply support for growing plants as they can easily grow up to 2m tall. Personally, I favour the wigwam method of support, where several bamboo canes are tied together to form a circular frame, but other methods include tying string horizontally between two bamboo canes at various levels, or a pea and bean net or even a trellis. When considering where to place your runner beans there are a couple of aspects to consider. Firstly they do best with full sunlight, although they will tolerate partial shade, then as they grow to a great height they will shade a considerable area (which some plants love, lettuce especially dislikes the hot summer sun). Finally you have to consider whether your structure will be affected by the wind, one of my wigwams was blown over last year and I lost a few plants.
Runner beans can either be sown directly into the ground, started indoors in peat pots or even in toilet roll inners. I would recommend that if you are starting the seeds in pots you use the kind that will simply rot in the ground, as runner beans do not like their roots being disturbed. If starting inside I would sow the seeds a couple of weeks before your last frost date, so around the start of May, so that your plants are a good size by the time the weather is ready for them to go out. You can sow your seeds outside at about the same time and if you are using a wigwam then I would suggest planting a couple of seeds about an inch below the surface at the base of each cane. Many sources recommend thinning these plants out as the sprout to one per cane, but I've had excellent results allowing both plants to grow. If you're sowing the seeds under the cover of a cloche or poly-tunnel, then you can sow them a couple of weeks earlier. For cropping over a longer season you could do what I do and combine indoor and outdoor sowing, with an extra indoor sowing at the end of June, which gave me a continuous supply of fresh beans from the middle of July until the end of September.
This year I'm sticking to the Celebration variety as they gave me the best results and am mostly growing them in specific bean and pea bags. I sowed my first seeds about a month ago, half indoors and half out, with the indoor seeds being a mini-science project with my two year old son. There is no need to soak the beans before sowing, and in fact this can make them susceptible to disease called halo blight. We simply secured some cling film to the bottom of toilet roll inners (making sure to add a couple of holes for drainage), half filled with compost, added a bean (checking that it was smooth and undamaged), filled to the top with compost and then watered. We then checked whether the compost was damp or dry each day and watered if necessary and the beans germinated within a week. As runner beans grow so quickly, they had their first set of true leaves a day or so later and the second a few days after this and then we hardened them up by putting them outside during the day and bringing them in at night for a few days before planting them out into a bean bag.
The second set of seeds were planted directly into a bag and these took a lot longer to grow, only showing their sprouts after a full month (but we have had horrible weather) and these plants are now only just getting ready to produce their second sets of true leaves, while those started indoors are racing ahead. I would recommend finding a way to protect emerging bean seedlings from slugs, as they really do love the tender stems and leaves and can devastate a bean bed over night (which is another reason that I'm growing in bags this year). Runner beans are also very frost tender, with even a slight frost causing irreparable damage, so keep an eye on the weather forecast for the first few weeks and don't be tempted to try sowing too early (unless under cover).
Once established and growing, runner beans need very little care, you will need to keep the area they are growing in clear of weeds, pinch out the growing tips as they reach the top of the supports and provide them with plenty of water (especially as they begin to flower), but until harvesting that's about it. They really don't need feeding and once established are relatively disease and pest free. As the runner beans grow they will twist themselves around the provided supports, producing large (and in my opinion attractive), broad leaves that taper to a point. The flowers form in groups on spurs, are very similar to pea and sweet pea flowers and very attractive to bees. The flowers on the Celebration variety are a beautiful pink colour and very decorative, personally I think they deserve a place at the back of any flower bed and also look beautiful growing over an arch. Other varieties of runner bean will produce red flowers, while yet others produce white, but from last years experience the delicate pink of the Celebration is simply the prettiest.
While some varieties require bees for pollination, Celebration is predominantly self-setting, meaning that they can pollinate themselves. This means that if for some reason bees have decided that your garden is a no go area you will still get a good crop. As the flowers die back you will notice tiny little bean pods forming and these quickly grow into the delicious, fleshy pods that will delight any table. Runner beans should be harvested regularly, starting at the bottom of the plant, while the beans are still tender. If beans are left on the plant for too long then they will become tough and stringy and the plant itself will think it's done it's job and stop producing flowers and therefore more pods. From a total of six Celebration beanstalks, I must have harvested at least 25lb of runner beans, which considering how much they sell for in supermarkets (£1.99/lb) means that I saved a small fortune.
When cooking your freshly harvested runner beans, the quicker you can get them from plant to saucepan, the better they taste. Personally I simply top, tail and slice them before adding to boiling water or steaming and they tasted wonderful. However, by the middle of the season, I have to admit that we were starting to get just a little bit bored with runner beans, so we were eating half and then preparing the other half for storage (what we hadn't given away). Runner beans can easily be frozen, by simply blanching in boiling water, refreshing in ice cold water, patting dry and placing in the freezer a single layer of a baking sheet (lined with cling film). Once they are frozen you can bag them up in individual portions, which you can then label. You can also use spare runner beans in a chutney or relish, or you can pickle them in brine.
Once the first frost of winter hits the beans will start dying back and this is when the really clever part of growing beans comes into play. As members of the legume family, runner beans are able to produce their own nitrogen and then fix this into the soil via nodes in their root system. So rather than simply pulling them up, I cut off the stalks at ground level, putting these into my compost bin and then dig the roots into the soil (with the compost if grown in bags) as a natural way of revitalising the soil ready for leafy winter vegetables. Last winter I grew winter kale in the area previously occupied by the beans, and it did wonderfully without any additional fertiliser. Beans (and peas) have been used in this way as part of crop rotation for hundreds of years now and because of the way they improve the soil I would recommend growing them in a different place each year, simply to add to soil quality. (And if you are growing lots of different types of vegetable then it's likely that you are rotating crops anyway).
If you have space in your garden or room for a pea/bean bag on a patio or balcony then I really can't recommend runner beans enough. They are easy to grow and make a great plant for even young children to get involved in, both the foliage and flowers are attractive, they provide an enormous amount of fresh vegetables and as a bonus they also add nutrients to soil. What is there not to love, so go buy some seeds now (I do recommend the Celebration variety), because even if you start now, there's plenty of time for you to get a bumper harvest.
Runner beans are so easy to grow, and like so many other legumous plants, they're so rewarding. Seeds are planting from April onwards. Before planting, I always find it best to set up my support network first. I usually create a tall fence using pea support netting strung between 2 bamboo canes. The runner beans can grow up to 3m tall, so I normally attempt to make my fence about that high, although it doesn't matter if its a bit shorter. Dig a little hole about 3-4 cm deep and pop 3 seeds in it. Dig these holes about 5 cm apart all along your support network. The great thing about runner beans is that as soon as they sprout they will start winding themselves round and climbing the netting. Very little effort is required from this point on. Beautiful red flowers will appear in July, and from this point on runner beans will start appearing. The longer you leave them, the bigger they will get, however continuous cropping with encourage a larger crop.
I haven't had so much time for gardening in recent years. There always seem to be more pressing demands. But this year I've been making a determined effort to grow at least a few healthy vegetables, including an old favourite: runner beans. Despite the somewhat mixed weather here in Scotland, and less than ideal garden conditions, my efforts are finally being rewarded.
It's no secret: there's nothing quite like fresh food straight from the garden - and it's really not too hard to achieve, even with limited time and space. So, in a departure from my usual subjects, I felt this most recent experience worth sharing.
The 'Scarlet runners' that I grow are actually fairly easy to train as climbing plants. As the name suggests, they are doubly welcome - both for their bright red flowers and edible bean pods. I believe they may have been mainly cultivated as a flowering vine in North America but have long been most popular in Britain as a food crop. I've never come across the variety with white flowers.
While the mature beans can be eaten like kidney beans, this does involve soaking and cooking for ages. So we tend to harvest the whole pods, 'mangetout' style, whilst still deliciously young and tender. If left too long on the vine, we find they can become quite tough and stringy. If I do miss any as they mature, I intend to try keeping these to sow for next year's crop.
Technically a perennial plant originally from Mexico or South America, runner beans are grown here in the UK as 'half-hardy-annuals'. But what does that mean in practice? I'm certainly no gardening expert but this is what worked for me this year:
As they are not hardy plants, I started my runners off in the spring under cover and kept the young plants protected until the risk of frost passed. Timing will vary geographically. The beans were sown in small pots on the greenhouse staging but could no doubt be started indoors, in a conservatory, or perhaps in a sheltered cold-frame in warmer areas. I'm not particular about the pots, though I suppose peat pots might be best for transplanting with minimal disturbance to young root systems.
Once the young plants reached a height of about six to eight inches (c. 15 - 20 cm) I transplanted them. This year I put some into containers - the largest planters that were free - initially still under cover, planting at a distance apart roughly equal to their height. I also planted some directly into compost in a small plastic cold-frame as an experiment. But as I hadn't had the foresight to prepare suitable trenches, as often advised, I didn't put any into the open ground this year.
We do have a problem with slugs and snails here. Using containers definitely helps with this as well as protection under glass. Elsewhere, these issues may be less severe.
As the plants began to grow, and the risk of frost finally passed, I devised climbing support outdoors with a combination of:
1. Canes tied together in the form of tripods or tepees
2. Strings attached to wall brackets where available
It's just a matter of using what's available really, in terms of containers, materials and compost. Utilising vertical space is what really appeals to me - maximising any sunny position available, as this is where they grow most happily and produce the best crop.
The whole process seems to have taken three or four months until harvest from July onwards, hopefully till the first hard frost cuts them back...
~~Problems and solutions~~
As legumes, these plants don't seem to need much feeding, given a decent compost. But I do have to water them regularly, especially when we get the occasional hot spell here. No doubt, preparing a deep trench in the vegetable plot with plenty of organic matter well in advance would help greatly.
So far, the only problem I've had with these plants has been some slug damage in the spring/early summer. I'd recommend keeping some young plants back under protection as a precaution against possible losses. Sowing a few extra ones at intervals might also be sensible, and this could extend the cropping season too. In the past I have used slug pellets and other strategies which I'm no longer inclined to pursue. Sowing and planting more closely might be preferable, thinning out as/if necessary later.
~~Preparation and cooking~~
Having picked just young and tender pods, we just top, tail and slice them lengthwise before boiling until just 'al dente'. Simples! (But see cautionary footnote below)
Unlike Dexys Midnight version (which I'm not so sure about!), we find these runners are both tasty and nutritious.
~~Availability and price~~
Runner bean seeds are available from the usual seed suppliers, garden centres, many supermarkets and other retail outlets. Prices vary but should not exceed two or three pounds maximum for a large packet containing far more than anyone is really likely to need for one season!
~~Alternatives and recommendation~~
I believe there are some dwarf varieties which could be worth trying. I did grow French beans in the past but found them less strong on flavour and not so long in the pod. I've also had considerable success on our heavy soil with broad beans but that's quite a different proposition. Tastes do vary but I'd definitely recommend giving runner beans a go if you haven't already done so.
A quick Google search will reveal many sources of relevant cultivation advice and recipes on the web, in addition to the multitude of excellent books on the subjects.
Easy to grow, tasty and decorative vegetable plant.
Half-hardy in the UK - perennial has to be treated as an annual here.
Thoroughly recommended - even for inexperienced gardeners.
Apparently Phaseolus coccineus, to give its botanical name, contains a toxin found in common beans and, unlike Mangetout peas, the pods must be thoroughly cooked before eating.
[© SteveS001, 2011. A version of this original review may be found on other review sites]
I have always enjoyed gardening, but the pleasure for me lies in growing vegetables as there is nothing more satisfying than eating something you've nurtured and toiled over for weeks. Not that there is much toiling to be done if you decide to grow Runner Beans, once you've got them out of their 'baby stages' they will pretty much grow themselves and don't require too much human intervention.
The beauty of Runner Beans is that they are a high yield plant when grown in good conditions, and because they grow upwards you can get a large amount of plants in a seemingly small area. You can allocate a section of your vegetable plot for them, or they will grow nicely in rows behind other plants and this is actually an ideal place for them as the back row can simply climb up your fence providing there is a trellis or similar for the plants to grip onto.
I think the Runner Bean is an attractive plant to have in your garden, as well as one which will easily keep me in home grown beans for several weeks after my main harvest. Once picked the beans freeze exceedingly well after blanching and because I usually end up with a rather large pile of beans I tend to batch blanch and freeze them, to make life a little easier for myself I freeze them in food bags with enough in each bag for one serving and date each bag so I can be sure of using them in the correct order for fresh tasting beans.
I am getting ahead of myself, obviously before picking and freezing your Runner Beans you first need to grow them. The one thing these plants dislike is weeds, I have a section in my garden which I have allowed to overrun itself with wild flowers as well as any attractive weed that takes my fancy. This is the only space in my garden where Runner Beans will not thrive, although they will grow as rather stunted strangled looking plants with very few beans along the length of them.
Due to this you will need to prepare the soil well before planting your beans. Dig out any weeds and allow time to evaluate whether more are likely to come through, turn over the soil to a depth of roughly twelve inches and do this regularly before planting out your seedlings removing any waste or stones which may rise through the disturbed soil. In short you need the soil to be in as good condition as possible and the removal of debris will allow the roots of your plant to grow to their full potential and create a healthy and good sized Runner Bean plant.
When choosing the area in which you plan to grow your Runner Beans you will ideally use the sunniest part of the garden, although they will grow in shade providing they get a reasonable amount of sunlight through the day. It is quite important to give them as much sun as possible as the plants will produce fatter and juicier beans, whereas in shade you may find the beans become dryer and more elongated rather than plump.
Personally I find this particular plant much more successful if I start the seeds off in small peat pots in the greenhouse, they can be planted outside once the seedling stands around five inches high and is comfortably supporting it's own weight. Now is the time to weed out any runts as any plants which fail to keep up will invariably be very low yield and in all probability will not grow once planted outdoors. Try to time your plants to have the out as soon as possible after the last strong frost of the year, the beans will grow when it's not particularly warm but icy and frosty weather will damage your plants and can destroy the less hardy plants in your crop.
You will obviously need to support your beans as they are growing, if you haven't got a trellis fence then plain gardening canes are perfect. Remember your plants are going to grown upwards of four feet tall so it makes sense to begin with as long a cane as possible to avoid disturbing the soil around the plants as you introduce longer canes. A pyramid of canes works nicely with Runner Beans and makes for a very effective display, however this can take up more room in your garden so you may want to start off with simply staking each plant separately. While they are growing your Runner Beans shouldn't need to be physically tied to the cane and should grip it itself, if you discover a plant that is struggling to grow up the cane however you can easily use a small plastic coated tie to keep it growing in the correct direction.
The single main problem you will need to deal with should you decide to try your hand at growing Runner Beans is the common slug. They adore these delicious beans almost as much as I do and will happily munch leaf, stalk and bean to leave you with a pathetic holey looking plant. Prevention in this case is obviously so much better than cure. You can buy special compounds for use on edible plants which will stop the slugs yet are non-toxic to humans, although personally I would rather save my egg shells for a couple of weeks and use these to create a 'wall' around my plants. Think of the soft underside of a slug, he's not going to want to drag his tender body across a layer of sharp egg shells and will hopefully leave your plants alone. Of course, there's always one which finds his way through so it's simply a case of picking them out of your vegetable plot and scooting the slimy little horrors as far away as possible.
Your Runner Beans are ready to be picked starting around July, although this will obviously depend on your time of planting and also the weather conditions in any particular year. From a seasonal point of view you should be looking at picking your beans from early July onwards, and pick them regularly to encourage new pods to grow through. They will keep for a few days in the fridge wrapped in brown paper, but if you are planning on freezing the beans I do suggest you do this as soon as possible after harvesting and certainly within 48 hours of picking for optimum flavour and freshness.
The information I have given above is for growing Runner Beans in an actual garden, but if space is restricted then the same principles apply to container growing. I often put some Runner Bean seeds in old pots I find because the growing cycle is fairly short and it means I can move the plants around with the sun, although this obviously becomes awkward once they reach a certain height and weight. Should you decide to use pots then I would definitely recommend buying a good quality compost and keep the plants well watered as soil in a pot dries out much quicker than that in an open garden.
Do give it a try though. Like peas they do pose a problem if you're not careful where you initially place the plants as when they grow they do cast a rather wide shadow, it just means you have to be careful what you plant at the base as ideally you will need to look for plants which grow well in shadier conditions.
It's trial and error though as with all gardening, whether you like to grow flowers or vegetables. The main thing is to have fun and, frankly, there's nothing more fun than planting a seedling and watching it mature into an edible plant without having to put too much physical effort into it.
Runner beans the growing of.
Where to start! well I have planted them in the garden before now in a much better garden it has to be said with some terrific results. But last year after moving into my nice new home and garden I tried to do the same here. Not a hope! and I was totally disheartened. Not only did the beans not get a chance to grow, mainly due to slugs, bunnies and flying insects that just love the young shoots, the ground was a bit rubbish. OH they started to grow well enough indoors and when I transplanted to the ground they were to live in the first thing that happened was the rabbits took it on themselves to infest my lovely veggie patch. Then the slugs came along and devoured what was left.
Not impressed I went back to the drawing board so to speak.
So this year I filled my large pots with good quality compost that all manner of plants can grow in, John Innings multi purpose compost and manuer mix.
Then planted seeds as directed and watered them in. Placing them in my unused back bedroom and waited for the shoots to grow. My indoor greenhouse is doing fine so far and the shoots are approximately 3 to 4" high so far. I can taste the beans already and cannot wait to transfer them to a larger pot and pop them into the garden again but this time under my front room window where I can keep a watchful eye on them. Along with my peas also growing in pots and carrots broccoli and beetroots. I aim to win this time.
I have also planted a number of bulbs this year and did not hope for much of a display but was very happy so far with snowdrops daffs and tulips just coming into their own. Maybe bunnies don't like flowers?
I will nurture my beans and other veggies for a bit longer as the packet of Enorma Runner beans from B & Q diy range suggest planting out in June. I may be tempted to go a bit earlier if they start to get very tall.
You get loads of beans in the packet and well quite frankly I was a little unsure if they would grow. I paid £1.89 for the packet and will have enough to go for a later run of runners if I want to. Get it? run runners! Lol
I have more than enough bean seed to shake a stick at and wonder if I may be able to keep some in a dry container for next year?
So far I am well impressed with them, and as it suggests on the pack they are supposed to grow to great lengths. This I can only wait to find out about. I love fresh grown Runner beans but haven't tried this variety before so I can only let you know how they do and what they taste like at a later date but will as always keep you posted on their progress.
As I do not like chemical sprays as a pest control alternative I can only go with less intrusive ideas like the one about deepheat rubbed around the lip of the pots,( this gleaned from another dooyou reviewer named Claire stevens, her review gave me inspiration, so please read it) and saucers or old juice bottle tops filled with beer to deter slugs an old favorite of mine as the slug gets a happy demise. Or standing the pots on bark stones or straw sometimes helps. Slugs just do not like the rough texture. As for the Bunnies I am going to put a barrier of chicken wire around the pots to protect them a bit with luck.
I do not want to go with the farmers method. Shotguns at dawn or trapping the poor little things. Just doesn't seem nice. Poor bunnies only trying to find food after all. I am sure there will be plenty for everyone if they leave the young shoots alone long enough.
Runner beans are an ideal solution for those who want to grow vegetables in a fairly confined space. They can grow up to 3m tall and need support in the form of wigwams of canes or runner bean nets. They will grow quite happily in a large pot as well as in a bed.
There are a few varieties of runner bean - I have grown both white apollo and white lady, both of which cropped well and produced white flowers instead of the more usual red flowers.
Runner beans ar sensitive to frost, so it's best to start them off indoors in small pots before transplanting them outdoors once all risk of frost has passed. They will tolerate shade, but you'll get a better result in a sunny position. If you have quite worn out soil, you should improve it with some compost or general fertiliser a few months before planting your beans. For a really good crop, plant sweet peas in between the runner bean plants - the bees will come to pollinate the sweet peas and end up pollinating the runners too. I shamelessly nicked this tip from Gardeners World a couple of years ago and it really works!
Runner beans are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means they enrich the soil with nitrogen from the air, which makes them perfect to grow the year before you are planning to grow a nitrogen-loving plant in that spot.
Start runners off indoors in late spring - sow two beans to a small pot and plant out in the summer. They need little help to grab on to their supports and you won't need to tie them in.
The main pest to watch out for are slugs. The only way to avoid too much damage is by planting out your seedlings when they are big enough to withstand a nibble. If you are growing your beans in pots, I heard that rubbing Deep Heat round the rim of the pot keeps the slugs away.
Pick your runners when they are still quite young before the seeds have started to swell in the pods, as this will ensure you have stringless, tender beans. They are best served steamed with a knob of butter and some salt and pepper. You can expect about a kilo from each plant and to avoid a glut stagger planting until midsummer.
Well it?s that time of year again, time to get busy in the garden digging, weeding, sowing, planting and hoeing to mention but a few things. I only have a very small back garden so it?s up to me to make the best of the space provided as I do love fresh veggies straight from the garden mmm there?s nothing better, except chocolate of course. This week I?ve been sowing some of my favourites, the good old runner bean. When you first start off growing these you will need to buy a packet of seeds, they are readily available from loads of places from garden centres to supermarkets, after your first year simply allow one of your plants to go to seed at the end of harvesting and you?ll have your seeds for next years crop, this way you can really save money. You can start sowing from April through to mid June, what I normally do is sow five beans at two to three weekly intervals over that time so I have a longer lasting crop with nice tender young beans all though out the season. You can start the off in little pots and keep them in a green house or on the window sill or as long as the last frost has gone you can plant them straight into the ground. When planting out you should space them approximately 2 inches deep and 6 ? 9 inches apart, Water them as soon as you have planted them and then frequently throughout their growing season. Once your little plants start growing you need to support their stems by providing them with something like a tall bamboo cane on which they can grow up by wrapping their selves around, you will need to help the young seedlings to grip the cane by gently wrapping them around the bottom of the cane. Once this is done they need little attention except regular watering through out the season. When the plants reach about six feet tall it is best to nip off the top of the plant to stop it growing too tall, it will then bush out a litt
le, this makes it easier to pick the beans when they are grown. The beans will start to flower after a few weeks with bright a scarlet small flower although you can get verities with white, pink or even red and white flowers, these will drop off if a bee or something does not pollinate it but don?t worry it will simply grow more flowers. If it does get pollinated the flower will wilt and soon you will see a tiny bean start to grow, these can be picked when ever you feel they are ready for you. There are not too many diseases that will affect the plants but the main one is a condition called Anthracnose, it causes brown shrunken spots to appear on the pods and leaves get brown patches on them both of which may turn pink if left and can even kill the plant. The best treatment for this is to lift and destroy all the affected plants and spray any remaining ones with something like Benlate which you can buy in most garden centres. In order to try to prevent this it is best to rotate the crops position in the garden each year and you can dust the seeds with benlate before planting. When picked young these beans are lovely and tender but if left on the plant to long will become stringy and tuff. Once picked they can be sliced using a propose bean slicer which you can buy almost anywhere and then be lightly boiled, steamed used in stir fry?s etc. After slicing you can blanch them slightly and then freeze them but I find they go soggy when they are cooked, the best way to enjoy them is picked young and eaten fresh from the plant mmm lovely. Thanks for reading. Kim.
I'm not very good at eating greens, I have always been a fussy eater and loathe things like cabbage, spinach and brussel sprouts. I was very limited on which greens I ate untill I started to grow my own. I am convinced they are a different taste to the greens you get in the shops. One of my favorite greens is runner beans. I worked on a fruit and vegetable farm a few years ago and I used to pick runner beans, raspberries, strawberries and sort the potatoes. It was while I worked on this farm that I started to eat runner beans, fresh from the field, hand picked and tender not stringy and tough. Then when I got a house with a garden runner beans was a natural choice of greens to grow in my garden. Runner beans are a climbing plant and have a very nice scarlet flower, they attract the bees into your garden too, which I think is important. You can either grow them up against a trestle fence or use bamboo sticks or poles to grow them up. Runner beans like rich soil and you can add things like manure, lime and compost into the ground where you are going to grow your crop, some people grow them in seed trays before planting out. On the fruit farms they are grown in little plastic polly tunnels before being exposed to the open air. I just plant straight into the ground about the end of march early april. Everyone has their own preferance. Plant your seedlings or beans about 9 to 12 inches apart so they have the room to grow each plant will climb up a pole or trestling and can be helped up by gently training them round the poles or trestle. They should flower and pod during the summer months, pick the tender beans from the bottom of the plants, this encourages the next lot of beans futher up the plant to grow, water well once the sun has gone down and don't leave the beans on the plants too long or they will get big and tough. Happy growing and eating.
Of all the vegetables that can be grown in this country, runner beans are my absolute favourite. I can eat pounds of them and still come back for more. Homegrown runner beans bear little resemblance to those bought in a supermarket, and are so easy to grow and care for. Even a few beans grown in a small garden will produce plenty of vegetables for the kitchen. Most people are aware of the scarlet flowers we usually associate with runner beans, but there are many varieties that produce different coloured flowers. I have grown runners with white flowers, pink ones and even multicoloured ones. Because of how attractive they are when growing, it might even be worth growing some up an ornamental trellis in the garden. That way, you get the beauty of the flowers, with the added benefit of your own runner beans, fresh picked from the garden. The Latin name for runner beans is Phaseolus Coccineus. Strictly speaking, this name covers those with red flowers, but for the purpose of this op, any reference is directed at all the different colours. The plants are all treated and grown in the same way. Runner beans grow best in a humid temperate climate, which is fortunate for us in the U.K! In a climate that is hot and dry, the beans tend to mature too quickly, and the pods (the bit we eat) become tough and stringy, as they dry out. The plants are very intolerant of frost, and if planted out too soon, will shrivel at the first touch of frost. If the seedlings do get frost bitten, the plants will tend to re-grow from the seeds, but maturing will be delayed. Beans can grow to a height of ten feet, so it is essential to support them on some sort of structure for them to grow up. It is possible to pinch out the growing tips when the plants reach about four feet, and allow them to grow as bushes. The main problem with this is that many of the resulting pods will be trailing on the ground, giving the slugs and snails a field day, and making harvest
ing a rather backbreaking job. Runner beans need to be grown in a sunny, reasonably sheltered spot. They need fertile, water retentive soil, and copious watering. Lack of water results in the immature pods withering and drying out before they can grow to full size. Temperatures of between 57 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit are the optimum. Anything over this, and the plants really need some shade. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your perspective) our temperatures rarely reach above this level for too long. Runner beans are one of the very few vegetables that can be grown in the same place the following year. This is because the roots have nodules, which replace the nitrates used by the plant if they are left in situe and removed the following spring. It is only recommended to do this for a maximum of three years before moving them to a different growing area. As most crops need to be grown in a different area each year, it makes sense to rotate the beans as well. GETTING STARTED Before planting, the ground needs to be prepared so that it is as fertile as possible. Dig a trench, and fill with as much vegetable matter (potato peelings, cabbage leaves etc) as possible. Use some scrunched up newspaper or straw mixed in, as this will improve the water retention. Fill the trench with a good quality compost, and keep moist. This needs to be done at least a month before planting. Erect some sort of growing frame where you intend to grow your plants. There are many ways of doing this, including a double row of canes joined together at the top, and reinforced with horizontal canes fixed at the joining points of the vertical canes. We tend to grow our beans on wigwams. We insert four canes into the ground, about a metre apart in a square, then tie the tops together at a height of about six feet. Then we run strings around the bottom of the square, and attach strings thrown over the top of the wigwams, and secure on both sid
es. This way we can grow our plants on all four sides of each wigwam. We have had up to 15 wigwams on the allotment, but now there are just the two of us we have cut this down to 8 or 9. We still have more than enough beans for our use. I have a friend who grew beans up a disused children’s swing frame in the garden, so if you have a spare one of these, why not give it a go? GROWING THE BEANS Some years we have started our beans off in pots on the patio, planting 6 beans in each pot, using good quality potting compost. It is essential to keep the pots raised off the ground, as wood lice will get in the bottoms of the pots and destroy the germinating beans. The compost needs to be kept moist at all times. When the plants get to about six inches tall, they can be planted out around the wigwams or canes, about 6-9 inches apart. The beans can also be planted directly into the ground so long as the soil has reached a temperature of about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, they should be placed about 6-9 inches apart. I tend to use a cane to prod a hole about 2-3 inches deep, and then simply drop a bean seed into each hole, and cover with soil, using the cane. Whichever method you use, water well immediately afterwards. As the plants grow, they may need some help to begin winding around the strings. Once they have begun, they will find their own ways, and will continue growing upwards. If you want to restrict the height and make picking slightly easier (I’m only 4 ft 11 inches tall, so anything above 6 feet is totally unreachable) simply pick out the growing tip once the plant has reached the desired height. Regular watering is essential, and once the flowers appear, they should also be sprayed (gently with a hose is fine) in order for the embryo beans to set. As the flowers fall, you will be left with tiny beans, which will rapidly grow into full sized beans! Encourage the bees and other po
llinating insects by planting a row of marigolds nearby. Beans are best picked whilst still young and tender, and before they show evidence of swelling. About 9 – 12 inches is about right. Much more than this and the pods can be stringy and tough. The more often they are picked, the more flower will appear, so try not to leave picking for more than a day or two. Once picked, to be at their best, the beans should be strung and cut within a couple of hours. The strung beans will keep quite well in polythene bags, or food boxes in the fridge for a couple of days. They also freeze well, and I never bother blanching them, but freeze them as they are. Towards the end of the season, it is useful to leave some pods on each wigwam to mature and swell. Once the pods have completely dried out and turned brown and papery, they can be removed, and the beans stored for next year’s planting. VARIETIES Streamline; This variety produces very long pods. It is a long-lasting plant, continuing to produce pods until the first frost. Scarlet flowers. Pole Star: This variety is virtually stringless. Scarlet flowers. Enorma: One of the most popular varieties. Large pods. Red flowers Lady Di: A good cropper. The pods are long and slender. Red flower. Mergoles: White seed, and white flower. Tender, light green pods. Sunset: Pink flowers. Heavy cropper. White Lady: The flowers are white, and set readily in all weathers. Abundant, stringless pods. Some people think that this variety has more flavour than any other bean. Relay. I am trying this for the first time this year. Produces four different coloured flowers: Red, pink, white and a mixed red/white petal combination. The beans are stringless, and it says on the packet that the flowers are edible! Hmmmm PESTS Green and blackfly can be a pain with beans at times. We encourage the ladybirds, which love to feast
on both. Many a ladybird is lovingly transported from some other area of the allotment and deposited directly among the aphids! Spraying with a mild, soapy water can help to reduce them too. Slugs and snails can also make short work of any pods that are touching the ground. Always check at ground level for any unseen pods. You’ll be surprised at how many can be overlooked! Not strictly a pest, but most of us take a holiday in the summer! Arrange for a friend/relative/neighbour to water and pick whilst you are away. There is nothing worse than coming home and finding dried up plants, or beans that are so swollen they will be useless for eating. PREPARING AND COOKING As I can pick up to 10 pounds of beans in one go, it was essential to find some sort of tool to help me prepare them for cooking! I found it in a small hardware shop, and bought six of them at once, in case they broke! It is a simple little tool, consisting of a blade to top and tail, and a hole at one end, with 4 or 5 small blades across the hole, through which you push (or pull) the bean. It automatically strings the edges of the beans, and these are discarded. We work as a team. One tops and tails, the other shoves the beans through the blades, and then we cut the strung beans into 3 or 4 inch lengths. It really does save a lot of time over the old fashioned way of preparing the pods with a knife! To cook, simply boil in water with a pinch of salt, drain and serve. If you do get some mature beans, that have swollen too much to use, and have gone stringy, you can remove the seeds from inside and use them in this recipe. Summer Bean Soup A medium sized onion, chopped. A medium sized potato, chopped. 1 ounce butter 2 pounds seeds removed from mature bean pods. One stock cube (chicken, beef or vegetable) 1 tablespoon cornflour. Half pint milk Salt and pepper to taste. Cook the onion a
nd potato in a pan with the butter, until soft but not brown. Add the beans, one pint water and the stock cube. Simmer for 20 minutes. Liquidise for about 1 minute. Blend milk and cornflour in pan. Add liquidised soup and bring to boil, stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with croutons, or sprinkle with tiny pieces of crispy fried bacon. ME AND MY RUNNERS! I love my runner beans. I always say that if Jersey Royal potatoes and runner beans were harvested in the same season, I’d quite happily be vegetarian! One thing I always make sure of, is that I have some of my own beans on Christmas Day. They’re not quite as yummy as those picked and eaten directly off the vine, but they’re still better than shop bought ones! Anyone intending to come and PYO raspberries, there may well be some beans as well! So put your order in now. Happy growing…..and eating. Lesley 13/04/02
Long. Thin. Green. Yuk. Its things like these that make me sick. Yeah they look good, but the taste differs. I mean, normally they get served with sweetcorn, potatoes, peas and other sorts of vegetables, but undoubtably I refuse to eat this horrible gangrene sticks. I mean, they were put on this earth for people to eat. Then what do you do with them? You can't do anything else with them, can you? All what happens it that you get a nice message from the kitchen saying that runner beans are on the menu for tea that night- and then the mind begins to wonder... Raw Runner Beans? Steamed Runner Beans? Runner Bean Stew? I just might have to throw up... Runner beans are one of the few green vegetables that I hate. Them and brussel sprouts. They have infested my fathers garden for twenty years - he knows i have never liked them, but on special occasions (christmas, birthdays, bank holidays, and now it seems like every wednesday) I am always invited for tea and we always get served Runner Beans! Mind you, I did have a bad experience with beans when I was about at the age of four - I was admitted to hospital with severe chest pains, only to find that a runner bean mush had found its way around my appendix. Yuk. So I'll leave you with that picture in your mind, as well as telling you never ever to grow eat or even see runner beans again. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, that was the end of the eight o'clock news. Later today, we investigate BRUSSEL SPROUTS... Advantages: None Disadvantages: You can cook 50 million meals with them, and they still taste disgusting!!! IanJC