This Summer’s Beans

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?

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20 Responses to This Summer’s Beans

  1. L says:

    Those tongues of fire beans look amazing, don’t they?
    I agree with you about climbing beans. I far prefer the flavour of the dwarf beans with round pods, and find all of the climbers produce pods that are too flat for my liking. Linda Woodrow swears by growing climbing beans for drying though, so I will have to give it a decent go one day soon. I’m tempted to grow red kidney beans and some type of white drying bean, like cannellini.
    My greatest success has been with boring old Gourmet’s Delight (a dwarf bush bean, very similar to your beanettes). Not sure of the yields that you’ve been getting, but I think I’ll get 5 kg in total from my 80cm x 80cm block of these in part shade. I’ve been pretty pleased with that.

    • Liz says:

      I do like the idea of growing cannellini beans – especially as climbers. Perhaps I’ll put them in a back corner and forget about them and see what they produce. 5kg from less than a square metre sounds excellent – I haven’t had anywhere near as many as that. My best variety has probably given about half that from the same space. You’ve clearly looked after yours better than I have.

  2. I wonder if some of the varieties you grow just have different names here. Do you freeze any beans – we freeze lots for use over winter.

    • Liz says:

      I don’t freeze any – we only have a very smaller freezer (attatched to the fridge) so I don’t have the space at the moment. I am thinking of investing in a small chest freezer and once I have that then I will definitely freeze some.

  3. Gardenglut says:

    Oh boy I am so envious. I had a pretty bad bean year this year. I DID have an early crop of bush beans , but my climbers were pretty much a failure – they got a huge infestation of red spider mite, a pest I had never seen before in many years of gardening. I am putting it down to the wet summer we had in Sydney. But I do love bush beans and am very grateful for your great summary of different varieties above, very helpful. My sucessful bush beans were Hawkesbury Wonders ( I guess a Sydney- developed variety given the name?).

    I really like saving bean seeds not to replant but to cook over winter… I still have some borlotti and cannelli beans from previous years stored as dried goods for great winter beany stews.

  4. L says:

    Actually Liz, Now that I’ve said that, it looks like cannellini are also a bush bean, not a climber. Louise, can you clarify? I’ve never actually grown beans for drying.

    • Liz says:

      You may well be right- perhaps they are only a bush bean? I know that some types like Borlotti come in both climbing and bush versions, I wonder if cannelini is similar or if they are just bush beans.

  5. Lrong says:

    Tongues of Fire? They look very pretty… All the five types you grow look so good… I grew the burgundy once… it lost its colors when we boiled them…

  6. Liz, thank you for the information about the beans you grew. I am really interested in beans. I only grow pole beans, though, right now due to space limitations. I, too, think that Blue Lake beans taste woody. I don’t plan to grow those ever again. Yuck.

    I like the look of those Beanette beans and your description of the taste sounds like something my family would enjoy. I may have to plant those next year.

    Here’s the link to what I have got planted for this year.

    I’ll let you know once I harvest what my favorites are. The ones I am most eager about are my Ruth Bible beans and my Zebra Selma beans. (If I get good harvests and enjoy the taste, I would be happy to send seeds. I’m trying my hand at seed saving.)

  7. Mark Willis says:

    I have a recommendation for you: climbing French Bean “Cobra”. I have grown this for many years now, and it never fails to impress. It produces a good crop of exceptionally long pods that remain succulent even when they are huge. It also seems to tolerate pretty much any type of soil and location.

  8. greenfumb says:

    Try Rattlesnake Beans for climbers next year, they have the best flavour and lovely coloured beans that you can use as dried beans so are dual purpose. They grow fast asn are very prolific. I only had about half a dozen plants that survived the rabbit and that was more than enough to eat, freeze and dry some.

  9. Great summary Liz, between your post and the above comments I have lots of varieties to try next year. As you know my bean crop was good in number (at least it was given my pathetic previous attempts) and I have some in the freezer for later in the year. I’m still picking a fairly good number each week, but I’m sure they’ll come to an end soon. However, I was that impressed with the flavour, not beany enough for me. I’ll be sure to give a couple of your recommendations a go.

  10. becky3086 says:

    I planted scarlet runners one year and they grew great but never did make a crop. I hope yours do well for you though.

  11. Hi Liz,

    I had a fantastic crop last year of the climber Lamon variety of Borlotti bean. In the past I have picked them too early and have since learnt to leave them until the pod is very dried on the stem in order to get the biggest beans. I freeze my beans very successfully and they are so easy then to scoop out what you want, quickly defrost and can be then added to a dish so would certainly recommend investing in a freezer if you can. Chef Giorgio Locatelli does a fabulous dish with borlotti beans, sweet white onions and fresh seared tuna which I saw him do one time as a Master Class and then he kindly after gave me the remainder of his fresh borlotti beans to take home as I enthused about how much I loved fresh borlotti beans!!-I’ll have to post about it sometime… Hope that helps…

  12. kitsapFG says:

    I have had good luck with Jade and Royal Burgundy and Venture bush beans. Our growing climate is on the mild/cool side though and these are varieties that produce early and in cooler soil which is perfect for my region. I have not had the same experience with the Jade seeds not germinating well, so perhaps it was soil too cool for them that caused the problems. Beans are notoriously fussy about needing warm soil to germinate (which is why I like Royal Burgundy as it will germinate in relatively cool soil without a problem).

    • Liz says:

      Thats interesting that your Jade germinated well – I’ve had friends and family say theirs didn’t germinate well either. Not sure about it being a heat thing as I’ve tried once a month from October til Jan and we had some pretty hot weather. I’m wondering if its actually a water issue and they like a drier environment to germinate in than I gave them. As you seem to have had a good experience with Royal Burgandy I will definitely try them again next year.

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