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