Runner beans were originally grown for their flowers but it was later discovered that you could eat the bean.
I grow a variety called Enorma, a very long tasty bean with bright scarlet flowers. Of course, if you want your row of beans to look really pretty I would recommend A variety called Painted Lady, which has both red white and pink flowers.
I find the best way of growing beans is up a row of hazel poles, set up across your plot in an inverted V tied at the top to a horizontal pole.
If you haven’t got enough room in your garden for a row of beans, you can just make a wigwam out of long garden canes tied at the top. You can even grow them this way in a large pot or container.
The beginning of May is the ideal time to sow your runner beans. I tend to put up my poles and then plant one bean directly into the ground in a hole about two inches deep, as close as you can to the pole.
I also plant some extra beans individually in pots and keep them in a warm place. After about two weeks you will see the bean starting to appear out of the soil. The reason I grow them both ways is you will find, like all seeds, they don’t always germinate, especially outdoors. Sometimes they will rot in the ground and on other occasions the mice will find them and eat the seed. If you have gaps in the rows you can then fill them in from the plants you have grown in the pots.
After three or four weeks you should find your beans starting to climb up the poles. You may sometimes find the beans need a little help and will need tying to the poles particularly if there are strong winds.
After about eight to 10 weeks you will find the bean will start to flower. Make sure you keep them well watered. It is a good idea to spray the flowers early in the morning or late at night as the humidity helps the flowers to set. Once they set you will notice a small bean forming and after another two or three weeks the beans should be ready to pick.
Make sure you pick your beans regularly every other day. If you haven’t grown runner beans before, you will find the taste is so different to the ones you can buy in the shops, which are usually old and tough.
My wife has a delicious recipe for Runner Bean Chutney.
On the subject of recipes, I am sure the cooks amongst you noticed in the recipe for Brussels Sprouts last week that some of the ingredients were missing and should have read....
Cut the sprouts in half and boil them in salted water for about four minutes, drain and put them in ice cold water. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan, fry a sliced onion, add some bacon cut into small pieces and fry until crisp. Add a packet of vacuum packed chestnuts, then toss the sprouts into the frying pan, stir them all together until hot, then serve.
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