It’s pouring rain again, so a good time to reflect more on last year’s potager. Revisiting the monthly photos was a good way to recall crops. Realizing what is getting used often from the freezer and pantry is also influencing decisions on which crops to grow and how much of each crop will be planted. One of 2019’s new crops, French Horticulture beans was a definite success, and will be repeated in this year’s plantings. They were selected only because I felt a need for more “French” in my potager, but now that I’ve found them, they will be a staple crop.
First of all, it was SUCH an easy crop to grow, as beans generally are, and the timing of the crop worked advantageously in my garden’s succession planting. Once the peas were harvested, there were several empty fence sections, so I moved one section to the middle of 5a, where “Mary Jane” garlic had grown. Garlic is a heavy feeder, so following it with beans would help replenish the soil. A row of bean seeds was planted on each side of the 6′ section of pea fencing on July 3rd. I purchased my seed (1/4 lb. was $2.60, but there’s enough left for two more years, plus I can begin to save my own seed when I want) from a northern Indiana Amish Garden Center, E & R. Their catalog is 191 pages, without any glossy pictures, just lots of info and varieties offered! Every bean germinated and quickly began climbing the fence. Basically, I ignored them. The catalog stated that they could be used as a green bean, but since there was already an abundance of green beans in the potager, they weren’t picked. I did taste one pod early on, and wasn’t impressed with it’s tenderness or flavor, so the decision was easily made to harvest them as a shelled bean.
Once frost was predicted, all of the pods were pulled from the plants and sorted. Pods that were totally brown and dried were put into one tub; pods that were all green were put into another; and pods that were beginning to brown but still in any way green were put into the third tub. This was early October, which is probably why another name for this bean is “October Bean.” The beans were leisurely shelled during football viewing, beginning with the green pods, because they would likely spoil quickest, and were put in freezer bags. The beans that were of mixed freshness/dryness were shelled next and also put into bags for the freezer. The beans from the dried pods were spread on baking sheets to finish drying completely, put in bags and stored in a large tin container. Normally, I’d just put them in jars with tight lids, but I was out of jars!
I’ve found that this sorting works great. If the recipe is being cooked for a long, slow period the dried beans can be used easily, even if not soaked overnight first. If I’m in a hurry, or just want a handful of beans to add to a soup or cassoulet, the fresh beans cook in minutes. The in-between beans work great as bean soup, with a bit of bacon or pork or ham added, slowly simmered until the “fresher” ones fall apart and become thickener, and those that were a bit drier slowly absorb liquid but hold their shape.
My 6′ row produced enough beans for at least 8 hearty meals for the two of us, which I feel is very satisfactory. They are a flavorful bean, and we are enjoying them in a variety of ways. The only thing I will do differently next year is to provide a taller fence, as they grew taller than the pea fence (but so did all the peas…it was a wet year!) The catalog described them as “Semi-runner, although some consider it a pole bean” so I should have suspected a taller height. However, they were heavy producers regardless, and the bees enjoyed their blossoms for months as they continued to set pods until frost. I hope you’ll give them a try!