Not only do they taste great, French Beans also make a brilliant fruit & veg ‘creature’ for the local village show! They were one of the first things we grew on our allotment and remain one of our superstar favourites – there really was no competition when it came to choosing ‘F’ for our ‘Allotment A-Z’. We love French Beans!
There are loads of fabulous ways to use these beans in your kitchen – delicious raw in a salad or dipped in houmous, lightly steamed on the side, baked in a slow-cooked stew or juiced for breakfast, the versatile french bean is also a doddle to grow. We’ve grown green ones, yellow ones, mottled ones and a gorgeous purple one that looks amazing, tastes great and stores well. Can’t ask for more than that!
‘F’ is for the fantastically flavoursome French Bean…
- Variety Blauhilde & Barlotta Lingua di Fuoco (climbing varieties))
- Plant Sow direct or in modules, 5cm deep in fertile soil. Late-spring/early-summer in rows 15x50cm or on wigwams approx 90cm diameter.
- Grow Climbing varieties need support. Height 180-250cm. Pinch out tips. Mulch & water well.
- Harvest Mid-summer to early-autumn. Pick when young & tender, around 15-20cm long. Harvest often to encourage more pods to form. Leave some to dry on the stem for storing & cooking and for the next crop.
- Biodynamic tips Fruit crop. Sow on a waxing moon. Plant & weed on a descending moon. Harvest on an ascending moon.
- Natural remedies Benefits from comfrey liquid manure, nettle extract & equisetum ‘tea’.
Planting guide by Homegrown Kate www.homegrownkate.com
Planting: We’ve grown both dwarf and climbing varieties of French bean and both have their pros and cons. Dwarf varieties don’t need support and crop slightly earlier than climbers, but their low-slung pods are slug magnets in our garden. We find that climbing varieties are easier to harvest and we really love the structural aspect of our hazel wigwams, so these days we only grow climbing varieties on the allotment.
Blauhilde is an excellent high-yielding, stringless purple-skinned variety and Barlotta is a fantastic dual-purpose ‘borlotti’ bean for eating fresh or for drying and storing. It has amazing stripy pink pods and coloured beans. This year we’re also going to try growing cannellini beans for drying and using in the kitchen. Exciting times!
- Late-spring to mid-summer in moisture-retentive, compost-rich soil. The plants will also benefit from full sun and some wind protection.
- Direct or in modules 5cm deep.
- Sow in rows 15x50cm or on wigwams around 90cm in diameter.
- Supports can be put in place before or after sowing/planting (around 8cm distance from each plant).
- Most climbing varieties grow to around 2m in height and need some sort of support. They can grow up sticks, strings, fences and wigwams.
- The growing stem may need some help to find its support. Gently wind the stem around the stick. Use string if necessary.
- Pinch out growing tips at 60cm and 1.2m to encourage strong side shoots.
- Mulch and water well, especially in dry weather.
- Ready for harvest around 10-12 weeks after sowing. Mid-summer to early-autumn.
- Harvest often to encourage more pods to form.
- Fresh pods can be picked when they’re young and tender, around 15-20cm long and eaten whole (pods and beans).
- Surplus fresh beans can be blanched and frozen.
- Beans left to dry in their pods on the stem can be harvested and stored for a year in an airtight container. Dried beans are fantastic in stews and soups.
- Leave some to dry on the stem and save as seeds for next years crop. Store in a paper bag.
Biodynamic tips: To make use of these tips you’ll need a biodynamic or lunar gardening calendar. More information about biodynamic gardening can be found here.
- All work is carried out on a fruit day.
- Sow when the moon is waxing (as close to the full moon as possible) for best germination.
- Plant out when the moon is descending to encourage super-strong root formation.
- Hoe and weed when the moon is descending.
- Harvest when the moon is ascending, so that all the energy and goodness of the plant is drawn into the upper parts (the bit you’re going to eat!)
Natural remedies: Comfrey liquid manure encourages the plant to flower and ‘set fruit’ – dilute with rainwater and water around the base of the plants. Nettle extract helps deter aphids, whilst silica-rich equisetum (horsetail) ‘tea’ wards off fungal diseases (simply spray the leaves).
Health Benefits: High in protein and an excellent source of fibre, B vitamins, iron, folate, magnesium and potassium. The carbohydrates provide energy, the fibre promotes digestive health and the protein maintains the health of your hair, muscles and skin. Yay!
Recipes: There are loads of fabulous ways to use these beans in your kitchen – delicious raw in a salad or dipped in houmous, baked in a slow-cooked stew or juiced for breakfast. Try lightly steaming and serving on the side with any of these dishes…