Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Beans means more.

I am managing to spend more time outside now as the daylight leans back and stretches its arms. The showers mean a shed with a few gardening magazines or catalogues is wonderful. It also means waiting for a break in the clouds before venturing forth only to reach the plot as the next heavy downfall starts in my case. An hour spent watching the hail bounce off the neighbours shed roof was enough to make me call it off for thursday. Back in the garden at home, there are all kinds of bulbs showing some colour.
The daffodils are giving way to irises and snakes head fritillaries while the summer showstoppers are peeking their noses through the soil, promising great things to come. There are new shoots on the clematis and roses to match the growth on the lawns. It does the soul good to see the signs of new life and to occasionally feel the sun warming your back . Work is now in progress on the plots and in the garden to fix, replace or remove some of those parts we gardeners call hard landscape . Fence panels battered and broken by the winter storms and paving which has cracked or crumbled due to prolonged frost and thaw need to be sorted out whilst many of us will be thinking about our backs and perhaps contemplating building raised areas to save us from bending so much.
There is construction afoot on the plot also as the important job of bean sowing begins in earnest. Beans are one of the staples of many civilisations around the globe and we in the UK are among them. Everything from baked beans at breakfast through runner beans with the sunday roast to the exotic sounding fava beans and the haricot bean, butter beans and even soya. More cosmopolitan tongues will know mung beans and the colourful borlotti beans. Behind the fancy names and foreign recipes lies a very rural truth though. Runner beans and kidney beans are the same plant, as are haricot and french beans. The beans cooked in that delicious sauce that top slices of toast across the country are also haricot beans. Basically, it's the way you process a bean that really makes the difference.My pots of runner beans are starting to break through the surface of the soil and slowly unfurl their glossy heart shaped leaves, like tall slim ballerinas stretching up and reaching for the sun. I have sown seeds I saved from last years crop, a practice many competitive growers rely on. I am growing climbing french beans again this year as, apart from the culinary aspects, they survive hot dry conditions better than runners.
This year is predicted to be as hot and rain free as previous years.
Both grow in pretty much the same way, started either early in pots or later outdoors directly in the soil and encouraged to twist and twine up canes or hazel sticks. The main difference is the size and shape of the pods and seeds. Both cook well as sliced pods and as beans and both dry well for storage and to use in other recipes. When dried the name change appears, with runners becoming kidney beans and french beans haricot beans.
One other thing that keeps me growing beans on my plot is purely aesthetic . All varieties of beans, climbing or otherwise , have beautiful bright simple flowers that cover the plants right through to the first frosts,just don't pick them! Until next time, Good Gardening!

No comments: