Grow your own – an abundance of runner beans – by Jaspal Boyce

Runner beans 1 Following on from my previous blog….. as mentioned, I was given some green bean plants that my friends had grown from seeds, and, as per the courgettes, I also planted these in pots. The size of pots used was around 35 litres.

The advice was to put supports in place for these plants, as they are climbers, and, as I initially did not have any canes, the pots were placed in front of my garden fence that had wires across it, left over from a previous climber. This should have been sufficient but did not quite work: the shoots naturally grow up rather than along (Jack and the beanstalk came to mind), so off to the garden centre I went, and purchased 2m high garden canes which were installed in the pots, one for each plant, to provide the required frame for the beans to grow.

The recommendation for the support is to make a tepee of garden canes with a base of 60cm diameter. Using canes at least 2.4 m tall ,push in at least 30 cm into the ground. Each plant needs a cane to twine up. My bean plants turned out to the runner beans which are a quintessential British crop and regarded as a novelty by the rest of the world. I’m not sure why they are called runner beans – I presume it’s because the plants run up the supporting canes. It’s definitely not because they have legs and run around on your plate, which is what I told my friend’s little son, and his response was to chop the legs off to make them stop running! It made me smile!

Runner beans 2

All the plants did really well in the pots. Once they were about 2m high, I pinched off the growing tips so that they would not get any taller.  They like water, so need to be watered regularly, especially when the weather is dry. The pods can be picked from as small as you like up to 25-30cm, and before the seeds start to swell. The crop from these pots has been amazing, I have to say, and for my first runner bean growing extravaganza I have been extremely pleased with the results.

If they are picked small then they seem to be best – just steamed, the flavour is really good!  As they get longer, they need a bit of preparation for cooking. Cut along the edges of the bean to remove the stringy bits, then cut diagonally into strips.

Click here for a really nice recipe to try. I made this and served the beans with chicken.

For Jas’ first blog on starting out growing your own vegetables in pots, click here.

For Jas’ second blog on growing courgettes in pots, click here.

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