In “Grow Your Own” I would like to write about my favourite vegetables to grow, varieties I tried or planning to try and share knowledge I have gained along the way. This is my first post in the series and it’s all about beans. Beans are versatile veg, easy to grow from seed, occupies little space, produces a huge yield, delicious to eat (see veg bean curry recipe below) and only limited choice of beans sold by supermarkets.
In Mark Diacono’s book “The New Kitchen Garden” in what to grow section, Italian Borlotti beans for example, tick many boxes: Easy to grow, Expensive to buy, provide Repeat harvest, difficult to find in shops (Unbuyables) and with spectacular red and cream coloured pods they look great in the kitchen garden or potager earning them the Secondary pleasures attribute.
These were good enough reasons for me to try Borlotti beans last year and I was lucky to get a packet of seeds from Mr Fothergills at their summer seed sale. Seeds arrived in June so it was a bit late to sow them but I decided to try few as an experiment. Soon enough I had five plants growing happily among my tomatoes and squashes in the veg patch and climbing tall sunflowers. Bright yellow and light grey colours of sunflowers combined with cream beige and red tones of bean pods looked striking. Collected in September, beans were shelled from their pods and eaten straight away. Very delicious with nutty flavour and creamy texture, they are definitely a winner and I am looking forward to growing more plants this summer.
Last year I also planted two varieties of French beans: Neckar Queen and Purple Teepee. I usually start them indoors in April and plant out in May.
Neckar Queen climbing beans were my trusted choice. First year we had a garden I bought a packet of seeds from a Lidl store and have been growing them ever since. It is a very productive variety which produces 25cm long, fleshy, stringless green pods and slugs and snails seem to ignore it. Very tasty in curries and great for freezing.
Purple Teepee is a dwarf french bean with 15cm shinning deep purple pods. I mixed them with dahlia Mignon, creating red, orange and purple colour palette. They stay stringless for a long time and good for adding in salads or curries mixed with green beans. A word of warning though, slugs love these beans as much as I do!
Grower’s tip: Don’t remove bean roots from the ground! Once you cut back the plants, roots will release unused nitrogen which was building up in their nodules into the soil.
In 2018 I will be trying a very popular runner bean, Scarlet Emperor, but beans I am most excited about are drying beans!
Matt from Modern Veg Plot was raising money for Thrive charity by giving away some of his unusual seeds he saved in the past year. Thrive supports people living with disabilities or ill health by bringing joy of gardening into their lives. If you would like to help, visit their website to find out how you can get involved.
Matt has kindly sent me Ojo De Tigre and Hidatsa Red Indian drying beans. Not much information is available about these varieties online but look at their beautiful colours, I like them already! Ojo De Tigre translates to “eye of the tiger” and Hidatsa bean originally comes from the Hidatsa tribe of the upper Missouri River Valley in North Dakota and both can be found on the Baker Heirloom Seeds website.
Third bean of deep blue and light grey colour is unknown and simply called Great Dixter bean. During our visit to Great Dixter Gardens last August, I found half a bean pod lying in the vegetable garden and saved the seeds. I have high expectations for this one! 🙂 All three beans will be grown this year for seed saving to increase the stock and I will write an update about them in the summer.
A few days ago I was reading an article on Zoe’s garden prints blog in which she shares her growing plans for 2018 and recommends Beans and Herbs website where you can find lots of heirloom varieties of drying beans. If you are interested in growing beans for shelling, it is definitely worth a look!
Veg bean curry
To be honest I invented this recipe myself. I think it’s pretty delicious but there are no strict guidelines to making it! It mostly depends what vegetables are available in the garden! The recipe has 4 main ingredients though and they are: fresh green or purple beans, kale, onion and tomatoes (or tomato passata).
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
4 cubes of ginger
Bowl of fresh beans
Kale – handful of leaves
1 jar of tomato passata
Other veg to add: sweetcorn, courgettes or aubergines
Spices to taste: cumin, coriander, tumeric, chillies (I use Demon Red chillies from the garden)
- In a deep frying or saute pan add olive oil and gently fry the onion whilst you are preparing other veg.
- Add garlic and ginger.
- Add spices to the pan and stir for 30 seconds.
- Stir in beans and sweetcorn, courgettes or aubergines, add salt and pepper to taste. Cook approximately 15 minutes until vegetables are well done (not crunchy).
Cut kale in thin stripes and saute gently in a separate pan for a few minutes.
- Add kale, followed by tomato passata, to the curry and give it a good stir. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Every now and then remove the lid and stir.
What beans are you growing in your garden or allotment? Do you prefer climbing, runner or drying beans? Comment below to share your favourite varieties, delicious recipes, grower’s tips or any thoughts about beans in general. 🙂