This year’s bean crop has been of mixed success. Some of the varieties I tried stopped growing at two leaves (e.g. Cherokee Trail of Tears and Cobra). I thought that something might have eaten them and I waited for side shoots to develop, but nothing more appeared and they didn’t look nibbled. I’ve never seen that happen before. Then my first two wigwams of runner beans were decimated by slugs. Repeatedly. However, since I know that I have trouble with slugs I always start runner beans off in pots to give them a fighting chance, hoping that if they get high enough before they go in the ground that they will out run the slugs. Not this year though. We obviously encourage high climbing molluscs. Luckily I sow spare plants, so I was able to patched losses several times before I finally gave in and just emptied the remaining dried beans in clusters of about ten at the base of each cane. That seemed to work and kept the successional sowing going nicely.
Good job I save so many dried beans! The reason behind that is partly sentimental, because my lecturer gave all his students black runner bean seed that he had selectively breed over the years. It seems only fair to keep them going and pass them on to others when I get the chance. In the end though, we’ve had an absolutely fantastic harvest from the runner beans. We’ve been eating them for over two months, I’ve frozen loads and they are still going strong.
The beans that were most steady in their performance were the Borlotti. They reached the top of the frame first, flowered first, formed pods and then basked in the sun, turning that lovely rosy, glowing pink. They have been looking good all summer.
In this last week their leaves have begun to yellow and fall and the pods are turning a darker purple and are starting to dry on the vines. Since I mostly use them as a dried bean this is exactly what I want to happen, before it gets too damp and cold. If that does happen then I will need to cut the vines at ground level (leaving the roots with their fixed nitrogen in the soil) and hang them in the garage to continue drying.
Surprisingly, the other bean that has done well in the garden this year is a dwarf bean called variously Yin Yang, Calypso or Orca beans. It is surprising only because the slugs didn’t seem to touch them until they set seed. A few pods have been damaged, but for the most part they have escaped major losses. You can use the young beans as they form, but they are a good dried bean and are particularly tasty in chillis.
So now I am looking forward to an autumn and winter of delicious stews, casseroles and mexican meals. I have also decided to eat some of the frozen runner beans at Christmas. Can’t wait! As for the failures, I will get new seed in, try some new varieties (I’ve been mulling over cowpeas for instance) and next year I think that I will have to invest in some Nemaslug.
How have your beans been this year?