I love beans, in some ways they are the quintessential summer vegetable, as they are one of the relatively few veg I really only ever eat at this time of year. I tend to favour rounded dwarf bush bean varieties but I also like drying beans although my knowledge in this area is pretty limited.
This year I grew 5 varieties of bush bean, I bought New Gippsland’s Bean Collection which contains: Jade, Royal Burgandy, Beanette, Majestic Butter, and Windsor Long Pod. I also grew Tongues of Fire (a drying bean similar to Borlotti), some dwarf Borlotti and I recently planted some scarlet runners. The dwarf Borlotti and the scarlet runners were both planted too recently to have produced yet but the other varieties have all cropped twice from October sowings and have pretty much finished for this year.
I grew many of my beans in pots this year, this was due to a desire to rotate crops in the beds so every 3rd year they have a turn in the pots. I also grew a few in a side bed that I didn’t think would get enough sun for them but they actually did quite well on a couple of hours afternoon sun.
This is what I thought of each of the varieties.
Jade (pictured on the far right in the top photo above): I love Jade beans, they are a beautiful deep green, with nice long round shaped pods and a nice beany taste. Once established (they take awhile) the plants crop well in both their initial and follow up cropping. Unfortunately they also have shockingly bad germination rates – about 25% this year from the seed that came with the Bean Collection. 0% from my seed saved from last years planting. I will persist with Jade (I’ve grown it for the past 5 years) but I would love suggestions about how to improve the germination rate which seems to get worse each year.
Royal Burgandy (the purple beans pictured below): I didn’t think a great deal of this variety, they didn’t crop particularly well, the seeds inside the pods grew too quickly and so to eat them as green beans you had to harvest every day to ensure they didn’t get too big. The colour was nice though and to be fair they were pot grown and didn’t get as much sun as beans would generally like. I will try them again next year but if they don’t perform again that will be the last time I bother.
Beanette (pictured below): A fabulous bean, nice compact, relatively fast growing plants producing small skinny beans. The perfect bean for using whole. Great for stir fries as well as side dishes. Excellent flavour and texture. They were probably the most prolific of the beans I grew (in number of beans anyway – as they are small they probably didn’t weigh as much as the Jade or Majestic Butter crops). I grew them in a bed which is a bit depleted in terms of organic matter and only gets direct sun for a few hours in the afternoon – so not ideal growing conditions but despite this they did well. I will definitely grow them again and would highly recommend them.
Majestic Butter (the pale beans pictured below): This was the first of my beans to crop this year and they cropped well despite being grown in pots and not getting that much sun. Good flavour and texture. The seeds inside are a beautiful black colour when mature. I haven’t eaten any at the stage but it might be worth saving some to try. I will definitely grow this bean again next year.
Windsor Long Pod: This is a flat podded bean which didn’t seem to appreciate being grown in a pot without enough sun. I tend to prefer the rounder podded beans from a culinary perspective so I’m not sure I would bother with this again. Having said that the flavour was fine and they may do a lot better in more favourable growing conditions.
All in all this was a good variety of dwarf beans despite my negative comments on a couple of the varieties.
I also grew Tongues of Fire beans for the first time this year. I ate all my first crop for lunch one day – whereupon I excitedly planted out some dwarf Borlotti beans. The tongues of fire look like they’re about to produce a second crop so I’m looking forward to another lunch next week. I liked them a lot and will definitely grow more of this type of podding bean next year.
The big gap in my bean growing this year has been climbers. I planted some scarlet runners very late and they are yet to crop but other than that I didn’t plant any. I grew Purple King last year and whilst it cropped well I wasn’t super excited by the flavour. Dad’s grown Blue Lake in the past but I don’t like how the beans tend to go woody if left on the plant for what seemed like a fairly short period. If anyone has a good climbing bean recommendation for me then I would be most appreciative. Next year my rotation system means I’ll grow a lot more beans in the ground so climbers will be very useful. A nice climbing bean for drying would be great too. What should I be growing?