Plants With A Pur­pose

There’s one non-ne­go­tiable, flavour­some, highly pro­duc­tive veg­etable in Jenny’s sum­mer gar­den, and it saves her money.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Jenny Somervell

The 7-year beans

It's a cliché to say you can't beat the taste of home-grown veg­eta­bles, but in the case of fresh green beans, it's true. They taste bet­ter, and they keep bet­ter too. Grow­ing beans can also save you buck­ets of cash. Climb­ing run­ner beans are ex­tremely pro­duc­tive for the space they take up, pro­duc­ing up to three times the quan­tity of bush va­ri­eties. Each plant yields a kilo­gram or more of beans. A 2m row of run­ner beans will feed a fam­ily of four for most of the sum­mer.

We grow a lot more than this as we ex­per­i­ment with pur­ple and yel­low va­ri­eties.

The seven-year bean

Un­like most other beans, run­ner beans ( Phase­o­lus mul­ti­florus) are peren­ni­als. The thick­ened root or crown can be left in the ground af­ter it dies back in au­tumn. It will re­sprout in spring, reach­ing har­vest two to three weeks ear­lier than run­ner beans grown from seed.

It's called the ‘seven-year bean' be­cause of its longevity. How­ever, prac­ti­cally, the plant is likely to run out of steam be­fore seven years are up. It's best to re­place plants af­ter 2-3 years, when they start to lose vigour.

The run­ner bean suits my gar­den's cool, North Can­ter­bury cli­mate bet­ter than dwarf snap beans. Plants con­tinue to set pods in un­favourable weather; I sus­pect it's why English gar­den­ers like it, as it can cope with their no­to­ri­ously in­clement sum­mers.

The plant orig­i­nates in the trop­ics, where it grows at high al­ti­tudes in the cold and driz­zle. How­ever, it is frost ten­der and will rot in cold, wet soils.

The ten­drils of run­ner beans grow very fast.

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