Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Top Photo "Harvey Has Beans" Bottom Photo "Purple King"
Beans are best eaten when young and tender because as they get older they tend to become stringy. Beans purchased from supermarkets and fruit and vegetable shops are usually several days old, not very crisp and loosing their taste.
Fresh beans straight from the garden are best and they are very easy to grow, needing little care but plenty of water. A simple climbing frame like a Tee Pee, vertical strings or a wire fence is all that is required. Plant the beans at the base of the structure and when they are growing encourage the shoots to twine their way up the structure. Apply a light mulch of compost to ensure continuing growth.
Pick the beans when young and tender. If you have an over supply pick, wash and place then in a plastic bag in the fridge or cut them up ready for cooking, blanch them and place them in the freezer for use later in the year.
The most common climbing bean grown in New Zealand is the Scarlet Runner (Phaseolus coccineus). It is planted because it is reliable, hardy, and produces a good crop. It is also nice and colourful with its bright red flowers which are quickly followed by long tender beans.
How ever there are other climbing beans worth considering.
Try “Borlotto”. This is a lovely white flowered climbing bean which produces fabulously coloured bean pods on the vine. They are light green with bright dark red markings on the pod. When cooked they loose the colouring and taste just as good as the best runner beans. They are not stringy and are therefore easier to prepare. They are available in prepared cell trays and the seed is available.
“Purple King” (Phaseolus vulgaris) is quite a strong vigorous growing climbing bean. Again the purple been pods are best picked young and tender and when cooked loose the purple colouring.
“Harvey has Beans” with its white flowers produces a really long wide light green bean. It is not as vigorous but produces a good crop. It is a tasty bean with a different shape to add to the vegetable dish.
Around the world there are a number of different forms of climbing beans available. It appears that here in NZ we have lagged behind in some of the new varieties which can produce higher volumes of better quality beans.
With climbing beans it is very easy to save your own seed each year. Choose the best plant and leave say 10 bean pods on the vine to mature. When they turn brown pick them and place them in a cool dry place until the mature beans are dry and then separate them from the pods and store them until next spring. The fresh seed will grow better and stronger than seed that is several years old.