Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cundall

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.

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