For me, green beans are in the same camp as courgettes: easy to grow, very versatile, cheaper than the supermarket. A staple of the allotment yield, year in year out.
Broadly, there are 2 types, dwarf and climbing. I grow both, and have come to the conclusion that the dwarf are preferable. They are more tender and tasty, and whilst the yield is far lower, this means that you don’t end up with a surplus of big tough ones that no-one wants to eat. On the plus side for climbing, as you will in all likelihood end up with far more than you can eat, if you’re organised you can blanche and freeze your surplus whilst they’re still young and tender.
This year, as per usual, I am growing both. I should point out that all of the varieties are called french beans (not green). I suspect this is for clarity rather than pretention.
- Ferrari (dwarf french)
- BBC says: a superb high yielding variety which produces long, straight pods. They are stringless, full of flavour and also have a good shelf-life
- Cosse Violet (climbing french)
- Pennard Plants says: a highly ornamental round-podded climber is a very heavy producer of rich purple pods. Stems are purple & the leaves have a purple tinge. It is distinguished because it retains its colour if dried, but as with all purple French beans it turns green when cooked
- Blue Lake (climbing french)
- Sarah Raven says: a wonderfully prolific climbing bean, with a long, steady cropping pattern of tender and tasty green beans.
I did sow a few green beans into trays back in March, but it was far too early. Around half germinated which is OK I suppose but they started to look a little worse for wear in mid-April so I planted them out (at the same time as the courgettes). Yes, they too were victims of Jack Frost’s rampage over the May Day weekend. So, back to square one.
14th May: I’ve set up 2 teepees of bamboo canes to support the climbers, 4 canes per teepee. 3 seeds pushed into the ground by the foot of each cane, so as long as I get 33% germination rate I’ll be OK.
However, the Cosse Violets are fairly old now, I’d say around 3 years so they might not come up at all. Same goes for the Blue Lakes, which I got as part of a freebie package the BBC did 4 years ago as part of something called Dig In. If I don’t get anything coming through at all by the middle of June bean-wise I’ll buy some new ones. Watch this space.
26th May: Blue Lakes are looking teeny tine but happy. Cosse Violets have yet to germinate. Only 1 of the pesky dwarf green beans has germinated. Time to buy some more seeds pronto.