by Chris Burns
|Just like snow flakes, you'll never find two that look exactly alike, attesting to Nature's infinite variety of expression!|
I've grown them many times before, but up until recently I always considered them to be strictly 'ornamental'. Don't know why! Perhaps it's because they were described that way in the catalog from which I ordered my first seeds. As you can see in the pictures posted with this article, they add exquisite beauty to any garden patch. It wasn't until 2011 that I sampled them as cooked, dried beans and discovered their beauty is only rivaled by their delicious flavor!
|Scarlet Runners vining up the bamboo trellis. We grew a 70-foot row last year and are doubling it in the 2013 season.|
The pods are deliciously sweet when they are young and tender (about 3-4 inches long). So sweet, in fact that it was the first thing our two teen-age garden-helpers would seek out and munch on whenever they came to the gardens.
|Bean pod-loving teens!|
If it's dried beans you want, don't pick the pods until they are evenly tan and dry. If picked too green, beans won't store well, nor will they be viable for planting next year's crop. Once the frost hits, beans will no longer ripen much more. Pull up the whole vine and let the beans finish ripening in a green-house or warm, dry place before picking them off the vines. When they are as dry as they're going to get, shell these partially ripe beans and use them first as they won't store as well as fully cured beans.
These beautiful beans are rather large --about the size of a fat Lima bean-- and therefore yield enough to make a pot of soup-beans in a short time. If you're serious about growing your own protein-source, Scarlet Runners make an excellent choice.
But the best kept secret of all is just how delicious the dried beans are. They have a mild flavor and, unlike Fava beans, their skin is thin (not even noticeable) and they have a velvety texture.
|A bamboo tipi provides a trellis for beans and beautifully frames our garden helpers.|
Be creative! Sometimes just a plain ole' bowl of beans with olive oil, soy sauce, finely chopped onions and grated cheese is all you need to get you in the mood to go outside and brave the winter elements.