Goodbye, old bean

There are some crops that are all or nothing – beans are certainly that. How many times has some poor veg grower tried to offload you with carrier bags packed with old, gnarly pods? It really doesn’t have to be that way. The secret is to pick little and often, to only grow what you need, and to choose the right varieties. In the height of summer, picking daily will allow you to harvest pods while they’re (crucially) small and deliciously tender – not a leathery bean in sight. A 10m row is more than enough for a family of four, and climbing varieties offer you a succession of pods all summer. Dwarf types, on the other hand, tend to produce one almighty crop before fading: a cue to prepare your freezer.

Person holding box of colourful French, Picked, Runner and Borlotti beans - ©  FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Person holding box of colourful French, Picked, Runner and Borlotti beans – © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Grow a selection of different bean varieties to iron out and minimise any gluts. Select a few dwarf varieties but make sure you’ve some climbing types in there, too.

Picking Runner beans 'Wisley Magic' - © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Picking Runner beans ‘Wisley Magic’ – © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Pick daily to keep on top of quality – harvest French beans when they’re pencil thickness and runners when they’re 1cm across. These baby pods will be tender, string-free and delicious.

Harvesting Phaseolus vulgaris 'Borlotto Firetongue' to eat fresh in summer - © Maxine Adcock/GAP Photos

Harvesting Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Borlotto Firetongue’ to eat fresh in summer – © Maxine Adcock/GAP Photos

Varieties that can be dried have an excellent shelf life – they can keep for a year or more in an airtight jar. This ‘Borlotto Firetongue’ can be eaten as pods, freshly shelled or dried beans.

Person holding trug of French beans 'Goldfield' - © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

Person holding trug of French beans ‘Goldfield’ – © FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

If you’re going on a summer holiday, don’t neglect your beans. Either strip off all pods (tiny ones included) so that plants can restock within your week or fortnight away, or ask friends, family or neighbours to pick them in your absence.

Girl picking French beans 'Blue Lake on an allotment in the evening sunshine - © Lee Avison/GAP Photos

Girl picking French beans ‘Blue Lake on an allotment in the evening sunshine – © Lee Avison/GAP Photos

Make sure you pick every bean. Old pods hanging on a plant will suppress the production of new ones, so if you’re expecting a glut but experience a dearth, rummage in amongst all those leaves for the culprits!