Climbing French Beans

I look at what I’ve planted, come home to write it up and wonder how I made my decisions? It baffles me, I have a stash of seeds – some bought, some from swaps, and some from the HSL. I re-read the descriptions, and think, “oh, that sounds fantastic”, look at what I’ve planted, and realise it’s not made it to the final ‘list’. The conclusion I draw is that my eyes are bigger than my belly.

I have limited space on my plot, what with garlic, potatoes, peas, salads, squash and corn, let alone winter greens. Plus I’m already growing lots of dwarf French Beans. So I try to choose varieties that are tried and tested (so why did I leave out Cherokee Trail of Tears?), new ones like Mr Fearn’s Purple Flowered (also left out), beans specifically for eating fresh, or beans for shelling fresh like the Gigandes a Butter Bean (should I bother trying again?) or dried like Borlotti.

And then of course I want to save seeds for using next year and for swapping. Most of the varieties I chose this year are heritage beans, with marvellous stories and descriptions that tempt you into trying them, to keep that strain going for the next year and the next grower. One bean leapt out at me this year, simply called “Red and White“, a bean from Hastings – a must for me to try and pass on.

Yesterday I planted out approx 50 climbing plants. With high hopes, that come mid summer we’ll be eating them freshly picked, either raw or lightly steamed, as a side dish with some olive oil and fresh herbs, in a salad with a vinaigrette, or lightly fried with a sprinkle of mustard seeds and shreds of coconut. And then as summer starts to end and autumn creeps in I’ll try to dry the remaining beans so that we can have them as dried pulses in stews, soups, or in a Dal Makhani. I’ll look for small black beans to add to a Dal, and then the larger ‘meatier’ beans will be frozen, straight off the plant, and used in winter pasta dishes.

Barlotto Lingua Di Fuoco “Spectacular green pods with red splashes make them much easier to find amongst the foliage. The colour disappears when cooked but the flavour doesn’t. Pick young and cook whole or sliced or leave the pods at the end of the season for drying. They are super in winter casseroles.”
Kew Blue Description from HSL “Originally from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this variety has been passed through at least three generations of our donor, Mrs Kelly’s family.  The purple-pink flowers are complimented by purple-tinged leaves and stems and followed by a prolific crop of tender purple pods.  Perfect for eating fresh and when dried has a rich, nutty flavour.”
Madeira Maroon “Vigorous bean with pale pink flowers. Large bean pods with big mottled maroon seeds. A  pleasure to shell out. Eat freshly shelled seeds, or leave to dry for a baking bean for winter.”
Major Cook’s Bean “Description from HSL, This bean was given to our donor, Mr Luxton, by his father in 1960.  Mr Luxton senior had been given seeds of this variety by Major Cook, a colleague of his during his work for The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the 1920s.  Major Cook is thought to have developed the variety.  Pretty purple-violet flowers are followed by stringless
beans with a very fine flavour.  Seed Guardian Rebsie Fairholm says the beans are excellent fresh or dried – prolific and high yielding -absolutely love it!”
Red and White “Donated by Mrs Jean Sherier of Hastings, this is a tall variety with yellow-green foliage. The pods are green when first set, but change to red and white when the seeds (also red and white) start to form. Garden Organic member Mr M Hyde  found they cropped well, even in very dry conditions. Seed Guardian Elaine Banham describes them as “extremely beautiful, like glowing jewels in sunlight.” The young beans are delicious eaten fresh and the dried seeds have a lovely ‘butter bean’ flavour.”
Sweet Australian Purple “Sweet Australian is a very big round purple frenchbean, climber, great crop stays stringless,but it is better to pick them earlier. “

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