Thursday 11 September 2014

Counting the beans


Sorry about the slightly fuzzy photo today, not one of my best I know but I think it will do the job.

This year I decided to grow out as many beans and peas as I could. It hasn't been an entirely successful exercise. As far as the peas went it was an expensive exercise in feeding pigeons. I may be able to find a handful of Carlins and I have a few of the 'purple podded' whatever they were but the Preans and Capucijners are lost and will have to be replaced from somewhere if I want to grow them in future. So that's not great.

Beans, on the other hand, have had a slightly better year than that, even if not everything has worked perfectly. From the picture, starting with the big white runner beans and working clockwise:

Corsican (or I suspect Spanish White) Runners were excellent at the start of the season providing a few meals of green pods before they toughened up and started to get strings and turn into mature seed beans. There are still a lot to harvest although some won't be big enough to dry before the frosts come. You can overwinter runner bean roots but I'm not sure these would be worth the effort, I still prefer White Emergo as a variety.

Starley Road Red. These are more pink than a deep kidney bean red but the plants have been very good and long croppers and would still be trying to produce more pods now if I hadn't taken them up to dry on strings. I had a surfeit of pod beans and so didn't try these in the green. Taken young enough I'm sure they'd be fine but they toughened up quickly and as they're primarily for dried beans that's o.k.

Ice Crystal wax bean. The seeds are tiny but the plants are vigorous dwarf growers and produce copious amounts of tender white pods which are excellent cooked and dressed as salad. Keep picking regularly for repeat harvests. Eventually they get stringy and start to go a bit pink. At that point let them mature and save the seeds for next year. If you have enough they are good for cooking in soups and so on but they are tiny so you'll need a lot.

Striped Bunch: an odd little bean. Allegedly from Right Beaver Creek, Knott County, Kentucky they are of a slightly unfamiliar form to the European grower. Described as a half-runner they're not related to Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) at all but are just short climbers (to about 1.25m, 4ft) of what we know as French beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). You can nip the climbing tips out and grow them as dwarf beans. I'm told they are good bean for pickling, short, straight, well filled pods but I've never had enough yet to really try that.  Will have to try again next year - at least I have plenty of seed now.

Giant Purple, the description is here but these are even smaller seed than I would have expected. There's been quite a lot of trouble this year with something mice/slugs/earwigs I know not what breaking the bean vines at ground level. The Purples were damaged like this and the few plants remaining subsequently swamped by weeds so I have just a handful of seed saved. They will need to be grown out again next year.

Mystery Black Bean. This is the intruder. It grew from a batch of Mayflower bean seeds. Very early and quick to set it also succumbed to the vine biter. I was really shocked to find the pods filled with these little black seeds. I've hung on to them and might grow them on next year but I've no idea of their qualities or even if they have any worth mentioning.

Hutterite Soup - pretty greenish white seeds that are quite well known. I measured the yield on these and found it averages only about 30g per plant even though they seemed to be growing well and setting lots of pods. This year I had just half a dozen plants for seed but I'd need to plant 35 or more into a row to get a kilo of beans for store, and I expect that goes for the other storage beans too. Serious self sufficiency means really going for it in a big way.

Corbieres - these are the beans I've previously referred to as Riana's as she was the kind person who sent them to me. I still don't know what variety they are exactly but as she obtained them in the wine region of France known as the Corbieres I think I shall adopt that as my name for them. They are such fleshy beans they're not even drying yet but they are brilliant as green beans and as long as I can keep a handful of mature beans as seed I will grow them every year.

Mayflower beans are the variety alleged to have travelled with the Pilgrim fathers (and the mothers too) but although I keep growing them for seed I've yet to make a meal with them. They did well this year until the cut vine creature got to them so I expect to be able to share some but I've no real idea how they cook. They are also weak climbers like the half runners and this was the batch that threw that sport black bean although most of them are perfectly true to type.

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