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French Beans

French Beans Phaseolus vulgaris

For an early crop, or where summers are cool, start the seeds off with warmth in individual pots or in seed trays. Harden off young plants before setting out at about 20-25cm between plants; the same distance is needed between seeds when direct sowing. Sow direct from late April with protection, or later in the season after all danger of frost has passed. It is usually better to sow late into a warm soil, allowing the plants to grow on quickly and catch up. For dwarf varieties, staggered rows ensure a useful density of plants. Research has shown yield is increased when sown close, but beware of an increase in fungal growth. Climbing varieties will need support; use strings, a tent or a wigwam of canes, or grow them up a wall or fence where they benefit from the extra protection. Good mulching and plenty of organic matter in the soil help too. Green beans can be harvested from the end of June until the first frost, but early sowings can be grown on for drying. Dried beans can contain a toxin (lectin) that may cause stomach upsets. This toxin is destroyed by proper preparation. First soak the dried beans for at least 12 hours, drain and rinse. Cover the beans with fresh water then boil vigorously for at least 10 minutes. The beans will then be safe to use. French beans seldom cross-pollinate, and you can save seed from several varieties, provided there is at least 3m between them. We only give details of the pod type, pencil or flat, if we know this.

Blue and White

The vigorous vines produce mottled pods that yield round, speckled seeds. The speckling isn’t truly blue, but it comes close. Early, vigorous and productive, this bean does exceedingly well in the British climate. It is a very attractive variety when in flower and pod so is ideal for the ornamental garden. May be eaten fresh, or frozen as green beans, however this really is a classic drying bean.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Blue Queen

Our donor, Mr Collett, was given this bean in 1950 by H Curtis, a gardener from Quenington House, Gloucestershire, who said he should look after them as you could not purchase them. They were identified in 1994 by Ron Bateman of Radio Oxford as ‘Blue Queen’. This hardy variety produces purple, stringless pods, 15-20cm in length, which turn green when cooked. Sweet and tender when eaten young, they also retain their flavour when frozen.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Box

This pea bean will crop reliably and prolifically in the British climate. Seed Guardian Jane Few says, “the beans are tasty at whatever stage they are picked”. They will provide fresh, tender and delicious haricots when young, and are also perfect for shelling. As a dried bean they resemble pretty little bi-coloured bird’s eggs, ideal for winter storage and for use in soups and stews.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Carter's Polish

This variety produces tall plants (around 2.4m) and purple flowers that are followed by stringless, mottled purple pods, which turn green when cooked. Seed Guardian Sheila Hocking harvested 49 pods from just one plant and says “the pods remain stringless for some time resulting in ‘meaty’ beans when cooked.”

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Haricot a Rames

Although when translated ‘Haricot a rames’ means ‘runner bean’ this is actually an early French bean. The tall plants (1.8-2.4m) produce attractive purple and dark green foliage, bright purple flowers and long, slender, purple pods. These pods turn green when cooked and have an excellent sweet flavour, particularly when picked young.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Hewitt

The local squire passed this bean to the father of our donor, Sally Hewitt. They produce robust, hardy, vigorous plants around 1-2m in height, and flowers with white standard petals and very pale green wing petals. The pods are flat, short, tender and filled with flavourful beans. Can be podded, steamed and eaten green, but principally a drying bean with a sweet and nutty flavour.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Hodgkin

Our donor, Clare Norton, was given these seeds by a friend whose father had grown the variety since the 1940s. The seeds have been passed down through the Hodgkin family ever since. The bean has characteristics similar to both runner and French beans with pinkish-mauve flowers and mottled purple and green pods.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Jack Edwards

A vigorous pea bean with beautiful white flowers followed by lumpy-looking, but succulent, tender and stringless pods. Best cooked straight from the plant when young. However, the bicoloured white and brownish-purple dried beans store very well. If you are looking for quality of flavour, not quantity of yield, this is the one for you. A delicious bean!

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Lazy Housewife - French bean

A German heritage variety popular there since the early 1800s. Thought to have earned its name as at the end of the season the leaves wither and expose the pods, making them easy to pick. Hardy and resilient, it copes well with hot and dry conditions.

Seed Guardian Andrew Burnett reports: It is a real belter! No strings when eaten green and very easy to cultivate, harvest and store. Our Spanish stews wouldn't be the same without them.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Major Cook's Bean

This bean was given to our donor, Mr Luxton, by his father in 1960. Mr Luxton senior had received seeds of this variety from Major Cook, a colleague of his at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Albert, France from 1954. Major Cook was always a keen gardener, growing prize-winning vegetables with his grandfather, and was trained at Kew before serving in the Middle East during WWII. Probably originally developed in Southampton in about 1900, by Alderman Vokes (Major Cook’s Grandfather). Produces pretty purple-violet flowers that are followed by a huge crop of stringless beans with a very fine flavour.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Mountaineer Half White Runner

(Synonym ‘Dutch Half Runner’)This variety originates with the settlers of the Dutch Fork Section of South Carolina, USA. Growing to around 1.2m in height it produces white flowers and short, straight, pale green pods over a long season. When eaten young the pods are stringless and tasty, although the beans are equally delicious dried.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Mr Fearn's Purple Flowered

Donor Bernard Fearn has been growing this variety since the war, though it existed many years before that. The pretty purple flowers are followed by long, silky pods. Mr Fearn says “They grow very well in a cold greenhouse – avoid hot sun or outside growing”. Seed Guardian Carol Baxter adds, “You can’t fault this bean, it has great taste, yields and looks good too. I like this one, very versatile in the kitchen”. It is ideal for freezing, a good job as it is such a prolific bean.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Mrs Fortune's

Donated by HSL Members Dilys Skilleter and Margaret Goodbody, allotment neighbours in Bristol. Margaret was given the beans many years ago by Doris Fortune, who had acquired them from the retired Head Gardener at Windsor. He would give Mrs Fortune vegetables in exchange for the use of part of her large garden. Allegedly, the beans were a favourite of the Royal Family. A prolific and tall variety, growing to more than 2m. Pale blue flowers give way to smooth, green and blue mottled pods, which become a darker blue when mature. The stringless, tender pods turn green when cooked.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

O'Driscoll

These beans were given to our donor, Mr S O’Driscoll, by his father who had grown and saved them for many years, and also found that they were cold tolerant in their early stages. A vigorous variety, it is also earlier than other French beans. Seed Guardian Ian Thomas describes them as “a pleasure to grow”. It produces beautiful mauve flowers and flat, green pods flecked with purple. Seed Guardian Jane Hickman found that they “tasted rather like a runner bean, but without the stringiness”.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Pea Bean Inca

Our donor, Sue Harris, acquired these seeds from a street market in Inca, Majorca that sold only local produce. The delicate, cream flowers precede large, flat pods containing white and burgundy bicoloured beans. The young beans are not stringy and have a mild flavour and when dried make an interesting addition to soups and stews. Seed Guardian Alec Powell “Highly recommends” them!

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Polish Climbing

Originally from Poland but obtained by our donor, Mrs H Booker, from Belgium. Matures quickly and is best used as a fresh, rather than dried, bean. It has lovely lilac flowers and slender, ‘snaky’ pods that are bright green streaked with black. Seed Guardian Anne Rutter was suitably impressed; she says, “They were slow to go stringy and attractive to look at. They wouldn’t look amiss in the flower garden.”

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Portuguese

New for 2011. Donated by Janet Wilkinson, this is a local variety from a mountain village in the Geres National Park, Northern Portugal. A vigorous and leafy variety reaching 2.4m with white and lilac-tipped flowers and bright crimson pods speckled with green. Janet found them to be “stringless at every stage” with a delicious nutty flavour when mature.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Reading Purple

An allotment neighbour passed this bean to our donor, Malcolm Charlish. The tall plants have dark green leaves and purple stems, followed by long purple pods that turn green when they are cooked. The tasty pods are stringless if picked young.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Red and White

Donated by Mrs Jean Sherier of Hastings this is a tall variety with yellow-green foliage. The pods are green when they first set, but change to red and white when the seeds inside (also red and white) start to form. Garden Organic Member Mr M Hyde found that they cropped well, even in very dry conditions. Seed Guardian Elaine Banham says “extremely beautiful, like glowing jewels when in sunlight”. The young beans are delicious when eaten fresh and the dried seeds have a lovely ‘butter bean’ flavour.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Ryders Coco Bean

This ex-commercial variety of French Bean was supplied by the seed merchant Ryders of St Albans during the 1950s. Our donor, Joan Cullen, has grown them for more than 30 years. Flat, deep purple pods follow the pretty purple flowers. Best picked young whilst small and smooth, when the beans are succulent and stringless with a sweet and nutty flavour. Seed Guardian Alison Backen says, “These beans are great”, see what you think.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Sarah's Old Fashioned Black

Originating on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, these beans were passed to our donor, Connie Howard, when she visited Hidden Cone Lodge. They seem to thrive in the British climate, producing purple-stemmed plants and green pods with a mauve tinge.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Striped Bunch

A rarity! It is claimed that these beans can be found only in ‘one hollow’ in Right Beaver Creek, Knott County, Kentucky. Donated By John Yeoman, of The Village Guild, this variety is known in the USA as a pole bean, growing to about 1.5-2m in height. The pale yellow-orange flowers are followed by flat, green pods.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Tuscan

The tall plants (up to 2.4m) produce white flowers followed by green, carmine-splashed, stringless pods. Seed Guardian Ken Pawson found that they remained stringless even when the pods were allowed get large. He says that they are “very tasty, excellent beans”.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Waley's Pea Bean

Our donor, Dr Rosemary Sassoon, believes that these beans were found in Spain and brought to Britain in the 1950s by her late father, Frank Waley, who was a plant hunter. Thought to perform best when sown later (May-June) and seem particularly well suited to dry conditions and drought. We have very little information on this variety.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.


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