Yeah sure, their beautiful, but have you ever EATEN them? I haven't, but am curious. What do they taste like? :) Arum
I seem to remember a thread on runner beans. Yes, I'm sure of it. Look around this forum for it. I'll bet you find some good info.
The thread on runner beans was mine, and is listed on the next page of posts... but I was mainly addressing their use as shell beans.
The pods are anywhere from "OK" to "good" eaten as snaps, but you need to pick them young. The flavor is beany & sweet, with a rough texture. The Brits have bred runner beans for their pods (much as we have with P. vulgaris) and have more named cultivars, as opposed to the generic "scarlet runner" which is most common here in the U.S.
I grow runner beans each year, both for preservation, and as a barrier crop between different varieties of pole beans. An heirloom last year called "Black Coat" had excellent flavor when picked small. The yield, however, is nowhere near what I get from snap beans, and while runner beans blossom very quickly - some as soon as 30 days after germination - they seldom set pods until late summer.
My recommendation would be to grow runner beans as a vegetable in cool coastal areas, or in the Pacific Northwest, climates for which they are well adapted. But aside from their beauty - which is reason enough to grow them - they represent a poor alternative to the more prolific snap beans, except perhaps as a change of pace.
zeedman, I find that the Beauitiful Scarlet Runner, is just that, merely beautiful. :) aRum
I grow runner beans (usually Painted Lady) every year for eating. In fact this question would be barely understood on the UK forum because that is ALL we grow them for. In most British gardens if there is any vegetable growing at all runners will be there. The most common problem is when people leave them too long before picking and when it is not understood that it is the PODs you are after, not the beans. The pods should be eaten at about 6 - 10 inches long cooked when the beans are just visible as swellings under the skin. The beans themselves are not particularly pleasant to my taste as the skins get too chewy by the time they are big enough to shell. In my conditions they crop much better than French (string) beans. They need rich ground and plenty of water. Many varieties are very tender, stringless and tasty. The roughness of the skin goes when they are cooked. It is not recommmended to eat them raw.
Now there's some good pointers. :)
I tried growing runner beans in the irrigated desert environment of the bajÃo in Hidalgo Mexico. They did much better than vulgaris varieties in coping with alkaline conditions. But, alas, their flowers are very sensitive to heat and dry winds. We harvested so few beans that we couldn't keep the seed stocks going.
In a mild environment they do have the advantage of being perennials, springing up every year from a large tuberous root.
"...a large tuberous root."
Like jicama? :-)
The tubers are borderline in my garden (SW UK). Some overwinter, others just rot, rather than freeze. I have compared overwintered tubers with spring sown beans and the latter cropped earlier by 2 or 3 weeks. However, I have heard other people say the opposite happened in their experience. Also tubers mean your beans remain in the same place and get in the way of rotation. My grandfather used to take out a trench in his garden and fill it with organic material all winter, like a compost heap, in order to plant his beans on it in spring. That's how much food they need.
The tubers we had in Mexico were not as large as jicama. In the wild (and runners do grow wild in the Sierra) I'm sure that they came up from the tubers every spring.
I used to enjoy purchasing samples of the "Acalete" (Runner native to the Sierra north of Puebla) because every sample had a different mix of colors. There I didn't see many folk eating them for green beans. They were eaten as dry beans; and I enjoyed them. Also, folks would boil the pods in salted water, when the beans were at the green shell stage. Then they would serve them up, popping the beans out of the pods. This was absolutely delicious!
Zeedman, what is a "barrier crop"? Is this a technique for preventing crossing of varieties in seed saving? I am going to start saving this year, and I'm an avid grower of pole shelling beans. They are getting harder to find!
The tubers are borderline in my garden (SW UK). Some overwinter, others just rot, rather than freeze. I have compared overwintered tubers with spring sown beans and the latter cropped earlier by 2 or 3 weeks.(snip)
Here the tubers hardly ever survive winters outside(z8), but I dig them up , store them frost free over winter and replant the following spring. They resprout and produce faster that way.
The weather makes all the difference regarding the culinary quality of the pods. In recent summers we had warmer and dryer conditions here and the pod quality and quantity went right down. In the right conditions - cool and moist - they grow amazingly fast into huge pods that are better flavoured than ph vulgaris. In British gardens you see many more runner beans than ph vulgaris, because the yield of pods is so much higher. Apparently, it is the highest yielding vegetable for the space it needs.
Organicburro, sorry for the late response... barrier crops are nectar and/or pollen sources planted between different varieties of the same species when seed saving. They not only provide a physical barrier, they also provide a stopping point for bees, a place to "wipe their feet" so to speak. This means that they are less likely to carry pollen between the two varieties being saved.
For a barrier crop to be effective, it must bloom at the same time as the plants it divides. For this reason, trellises of pole lima beans & runner beans (which flower freely) make good barriers between different varieties of common pole beans (which flower sparsely). Along with distance & the interspersed planting of good pollen sources (like cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, and cucurbits) it decreases the chances of cross-pollination between the beans.
However, the varieties being saved should not be grown immediately next to the barrier crop; they should still have some distance between them, perhaps 25-50 feet if possible.
It has been mentioned that the British have bred runner beans for their pods, and have many named varieties. Organicburro shared a source on another thread, which is in the link below; they carry many named cultivars of runner bean, most of which are very hard to find in the U.S.
Here is a link that might be useful: Gourmet Seed International
Thank you so much, zeedman. Now I know where to put my cutting flowers bed. I am trying to save seed of old Amish bean called "Dutch Brown" around here. Used to get seed from older Mennonite farmer nearby, but he passed away. Amazing how fragile plant diversity can be!
Just sowed my Painted Lady seeds saved from last year in pots indoors today(along with yellow courgettes - zucchini to you). I will plant them out in about four weeks. Looking forward to those delicious runner beans in mid-June, weather permitting. If you've never tried runner beans, have a go. They are much more reliable than P vulgaris in my conditions.
I trialed half a dozen types of runner beans this summer, not understanding that they cross much more than most common beans.
If I dig up the tubers and store them, they should be as pure genetically as the original seed was. Does this make sense?
Makes sense to me.