Friday 30 July 2010


ice crystal wax plant
Ice Crystal Wax Dwarf French Bean

It's been so dry here many of the peas and beans have all but given up. However, I was pleased to discover that these Ice Crystal wax beans have started producing and are looking well on the conditions.

Ice Crystal Wax beans are a very old heritage variety which mysteriously enough seem to be under represented on the web... just went looking for stuff to nudge my memory and there's almost nothing out there. Anyway, they are sturdy little dwarf french beans producing plentiful short pods which are almost white in colour as you can see in the picture below. The dried seed is white and rather small, about the size of a mung or azuki bean.

I've grown them several times in the past although the seed this year was newly sourced from the HSL at Garden Organic. The pods make a marvellous bean salad but you need to pick quickly and regularly or they toughen up unpleasantly. With any luck I'll have enough to offer these in seed swaps this year.

ice crystal wax beans
Ice Crystal Wax beans with some others for colour and length comparison

Every year I have a go at the Three Sisters bed system of growing maize, beans and squash. It's never terribly successful although I think I've got the spacing better this time. The maize is a green kernel flint type and the squash Waltham Butternut but the beans I've no idea about, they were part of a swap I made with Riana Laplace and all she could tell me about them was that they were grown by her neighbours on their plots.

three sisters bed
Three Sisters bed

So the variety could be something ancient and heirloom but it might just as easily be some very well known and modern type. The French aren't terribly sentimental about vegetables, they grow for flavour and yield and welcome new varieties that promise improvements in either.

Whatever they are, selected by growers in the hot south, they've had a perfect summer here and are producing tender green beans where my other french beans are failing alarmingly.

unnamed beans
Unnamed black/brown seeded climbing French bean from the south of France

Other beans that I hope are having a good time in this heat are the Lupini which are still growing although they do look a little wilted and stressed in the hottest part of the day. They are just coming into flower now and I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress.

lupini flower
The edible lupin starts to flower

And I'm kicking myself for not taking better care of the soy beans I started way back when. I have only a few plants but the weather this year couldn't have been better for them and so I've missed a crop I was really looking forward to, green soy beans in their pods which are called edamame in Japanese.

It seems best to grow your own of these. The soy bean has such a bad press for so many reasons and yet it really is a good nutritious foodstuff in moderation.

soy composite
Soy beans - Glycine max

Finally, I couldn't even bear to take pictures of the cowpeas. If they were going to succeed in Normandy this would have been the summer for it I would have thought but sadly, the plants are stunted and puny. Very disappointing. I'll try again next year but I suspect these are varieties that need high input fertilisers and are therefore unsuitable for my style of gardening even if the weather could be guaranteed.

p.s. just posted this to the food blog. silly me, now removed, so don't be alarmed!


Unknown said...

Drought-resistance in varieties is becoming an important factor. Let us know how the Lupini do - very attractive foliage.

ICQB said...

Been doing some catching up with your posts. Such interesting reading. Thanks for that.

Hope you do get some butternut squash out of your plants. 99% of my squash were taken by the squash vine borer, which is very frustrating. I have one yellow squash hanging in there, and one potimarron (sp?) still thriving, but without fruit yet.

Love the picture of the garlic. Well, all the pictures, actually.