Friday, 3 August 2012

Lugubrious Legumes

Some of the Painted Lady runners
are just starting to produce beans.
Friday 3rd August 2012
These clouds eventually brought some torrential afternoon showers

I'm just glad I'm not a bean.
Even the runners have struggled this year. The Painted Ladies, normally so vigorous, have struggled to get going, but finally some have got past the slugs and managed to gather enough light and heat to reach the top of their wigwam. I've clipped off the tops to encourage them to bush up and I've even harvested five runner beans.

I selected Painted Lady for its dual coloured flowers and its vigorous growth, but I have to say it seems to go stringy very quickly. There's nothing worse than a mouthful of stringiness - the bean equivalent of fish bones! From now on there'll be daily checks to make sure I catch the beans at optimal size.
I also grow Czar, a runner with white flowers and white 'butter' beans, which I plan to harvest and dry for the winter. It's not so vigorous though, and has struggled to get going this year.

Which varieties I grow is always open to review. In fact, this year's crop has been grown from beans collected last year and I'm not sure they haven't crossed. It'll be a lot clearer when I can harvest some Czars. I have noticed that one of the Painted Ladies has all red flowers.


If the runners are looking a bit sad, my other climbing beans are looking woeful. My third attempt at Borlottis will be lucky to yield one or two plants - all the others have been systematically nibbled into oblivion. I'm just hoping for enough to get some seed for next year. The same with French Bean 'Blue Lake'. This is a real shame, since in a good year it yields wonderfully tender and stringless beans.

Purple Teepees, I presume.
The packet of 'exotic beans' which I purchased are beginning to fare a little better. I'm not entirely sure which are which, as the five types came mixed in one packet. I separated them out based on colour, but the Purple Teepees have not come from the beans I thought they would!


Anyway, they are beginning to bush up and flower. The first tiny pods are appearing.
You may remember that I experimented with sprouting a few shop bought black-eyed beans and throwing them in the ground. Well, it didn't work. Probably not a good year to try, and a rather haphazard way of doing it. I will give it another go next year, but with a little more care and attention. They may even get a place in the polytunnel.
Much better this year to be a pea.
They have loved the wet conditions and seem unaffected by the slugs. The standard peas have done well, although the pea moths have found some of them. I've grown four different types and it will be a learning experience to compare them for yield and taste.


Purple-podded peas still cropping well.
The purple-podded mangetout is cropping well now. I agree with others' comments that these have a less delicate taste than standard green mangetout. We still eat some either raw or lightly steamed, but have found that we need to pick them very early before they begin to swell at all. No worry if we miss them though, since the peas they produce rival any others we've grown for taste. They are a very attractive additon to the veg patch, especially now that the sweet pea I sowed in with them has come into flower and the Cosmos Sensation are flowering at their base.
But I do think that for next year I'll look into a more tender green variety too.




Contending with the purple-podded peas for prettiness is the asparagus pea bed, which I have bordered with alyssum, along with the odd marigold. Not to everyone's taste, if anyone tells you this tastes like asparagus or peas, or a cross, they have probably not actually tasted it. In oriental cookery it's known as the winged pea/bean, named after the square, winged pods. These need to be picked very young and lightly cooked. If you don't get it right, they taste woody. A quick surf of the internet reveals plenty of people bemoaning the cardboard razorblades they have grown! I don't eat many of mine, but I do find the taste quite good - I would say a little nutty. In oriental cookery it is used more as a green ingredient in other dishes rather than on its own. I could see this working.

Asparagus Pea flowers




Asparagus pea has not really been selectively bred so does not come up to the yield and tenderness of other legumes, but if you have space it is certainly worth a try. I find it easy to grow, and this year's crop came from last year's collected seeds. Germination was excellent. It is an attractive, low-growing plant and the bees love it.



Finally, can you guess what this is?       ...
Last year's celery!
I had the bright idea of leaving it to collect the seed, but now find that celery seed has very few culinary uses. Anyway, I'll give it a go. I do like the proliferation of delicate flowers too.





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