ARATHER satisfying desperation arises when bush and climbing beans start cropping. It is hard to keep up with relentless yields and to make things even more pleasantly difficult, it is fatal to stop harvesting.
Should too many pods be missed and left hanging – even for about a week – they rapidly swell to full maturity.
When this happens, the bean plants stop cropping because they ‘‘ think’’ their main aim in life – to reproduce – has been achieved.
Our aim when harvesting bean pods is to constantly frustrate all attempts to mature by harvesting pods while still young.
In fact, if we should occasionally find it too hard to cope with too many pods, it is worth picking them to just chuck away rather than allow plants to stop producing.
Last October I made a crude supporting frame from extra- long garden stakes for Scarlet Runner beans to climb. The entire bed was only about 6sq m and the simple structure roughly 2m in height.
It is now submerged under a vigorous mass of bean stems and becoming worryingly heavy with astonishingly long, utterly delicious pods.
Scarlet Runners are called seven- year beans because roots can be left in the ground over winter. They sprout again in spring to produce another crop and are supposed to keep on doing this for seven years.
But it is only in cold parts of Europe and America where summers are short that the same bean roots keep being used. Sometimes they are lifted from the ground in autumn, then stored in moist sand over winter for re- planting in spring.
We don’t need to do this in Tasmania because there are diminishing returns over the years. Better results are obtained when fresh seed is sown every spring, always in different places to avoid disease and pest problems.
Our bush beans are also going berserk and they too need to be kept picked. I’m growing Cherokee Wax, a gorgeous, golden butter bean and Gourmet’s Delight, a highly productive variety of extra- tasty snap bean.
The Cherokee Wax plants have grown so tall they have become top heavy, with huge numbers of yellow pods. So I’ve been forced to shove lengths of bent fencing wire into the ground among them for support.
The bush bean bed roughly occupies 4m x 4m and it looks as though we’ll be packing our freezer with surplus pods.
There’s been mixed success with the tomatoes. I experimented with about 20 heirloom varieties from many countries, obtained from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens spring plant sale last September.
They were planted a metre apart; each supported by at least three stakes. Most grew furiously, but cropping was spasmodic and even poor with Box Car Willie, Arkansas Traveller and June Pink.
However, amazing results were obtained with the bright- yellow and almost seedless Jaune Negib, well ahead of the others and the flavour was magnificent.
Best of all was the old, reliable Money Maker. In fact the plant cropped so heavily – right down to the ground – that I could no longer tie up the huge trusses and was forced to tuck dry straw underneath to keep them from touching the soil and going mouldy.
The weirdest variety is Aunt Ruby’s German Green. I’ve never seen such enormous, extraheavy tomato trusses – all remain bright green even when fully ripe. I guess their maturity by testing for a slight softness and must confess the flavour is superb. I’ll be saving seed of the best and most productive plants carrying the best- flavoured tomatoes.