I am very fond of legumes of various sorts. Peas and broad beans are one of the great treats of the early season. Although they freeze well, growing enough for freezing needs a great deal of space and a lot of effort for picking and shelling. I prefer, instead, to eat them as a seasonal treat so do not grow an excessive quantity. Out of their peak season in early summer there are plenty of other crops to enjoy. Later in the year, French and runner beans are one of our staples. We grow beans for use fresh as well as shelling sorts for drying for winter use, but CT is not very keen on the dried beans.
We have tried various broad beans, but so far Masterpiece Green Longpod has yielded the finest tasting beans. It is somewhat taller than many sorts and can bear a great crop of generous pods. We also grow the popular Aquadulce for autumn sowing. At some point I would like to try the old Crimson Flowered variety.
- Masterpiece Green Longpod
We have grown quite a few varieties of pea, but none have performed nearly as well as Hurst Greenshaft in terms of crop or quality of the peas. They also seem to be slower to turn starchy and tasteless if left a little long on the plants. Similarly impressive is Carouby de Mausanne, which is a tall growing mangetout type bearing stunning flowers followed by huge pods of a fine and unusually robust flavour. Hurst Greenshaft is a main crop pea, so I usually also sow a crop of an early sort for overwintering, but not in any great quantity. They are just there to provide an early harvest whilst the main crop develops. Douce Provence is a common autumn sowing pea, which we have grown several times, but I will be growing Piccolo Provenzale this autumn. I would also quite like to trial the old Purple Podded pea at some point.
- Douce Provence (autumn sowing)
- Piccolo Provenzale (autumn or spring sowing)
- Hurst Greenshaft (spring sowing)
- Carouby de Mausanne (mangetout type)
For French beans, I grow mostly Blue Lake, which is a white seeded variety that is equally good dried at the end of the season for winter use. At some point I would like to try Cherokee Trail of Tears, an old heirloom variety, and Cosse Violette, a dark purple coloured bean. Cherokee Trail of Tears is said to have excellent flavour. Although the dried beans can be used, they are black in colour. I suppose this is not really important, but in some dishes a white bean certainly looks best. A dwarf bean is useful early in the year as it will bear more quickly. Most recently we have been growing the yellow Beurre d’Rocquencourt. Meraviglia di Venezia also offers a nice contrast to the usual green bean, with its pale yellow, somewhat flat, waxy pods that offer a delicate texture and delicious flavour.
- Blue Lake
- Beurre d’Rocquencourt
- Meraviglia di Venezia
Although CT and I tend to prefer French beans to runners, we do also grow these, and tend to stick with the old varieties of either Painted Lady or Scarlet Runner, which produce good flavoured pods. We have grown the more modern White Lady in the past, which is supposed to be advantageous as white flowers are said to be less attractive to birds.
- Painted Lady
- Scarlet Runner
I will grow some beans specifically for shelling, and, although the pods can be eaten when young, I simply let most of them go, as we always have plenty of French beans and runners for eating fresh. At some point I would like to try Flageolet Chevrier, an old variety producing the small green flageolet beans, but seed is a little hard to come by. The large white bean Bianco di Spagna closely resembles a butter bean, and is sometimes incorrectly referred to as such. Strictly, though, it is a variety of runner bean, whereas the true butter bean is a lima bean. Lima beans, however, are not ideally suited to our growing conditions, so Bianco di Spagna makes a suitable alternative.
- Bianco di Spagna
- Borlotti Lingua di Fuoco
- Flageolet Chevrier