Just in time for
Bastille Day, Fiona Lawrenson introduces the fast-growing
and deliciously tasty French bean which, ironically,
hails from the US, not France
Despite their name French beans are American in origin.
They are a great joy to grow, especially if you make
life easier for yourself by being patient and sowing
them directly into warm earth between the end of April
and the middle of May.
French beans are incredibly fast growing, whether as
bushes or climbers. They can be sown directly into the
soil of a well-prepared veggie plot or grown in containers
or grow bags. They'll produce the best results in a
sheltered location with neutral or slightly acidic soil
that is rich in nutrients and light in texture.
If you intend sowing your beans directly outside, then
both the time of year and the soil temperature are critical.
Cold and wet weather will cause the seeds to rot rather
than to germinate and the soil temperature needs to
be around 12oC. You can get around this by growing the
seeds in trays or individual pots under glass and then
transplanting them out when the conditions are more
favourable - but why worry? Just plant your French beans
outside later in the season and let nature take its
course. I have found that transplanted stock can take
a real knock back and is slow to recover, so precious
time can be wasted.
Sow your healthy seed at a depth of 1½ inches and 8
inches apart in rows spaced 9 inches apart. The seeds
will take approximately 8 to 12 days to germinate. You
can stagger your crop by planting them outside at regular
intervals from late April to the end of June. To give
the plants extra stability, build the soil up around
their stems. Use 'pea sticks' to support bush plants
and cane wigwams to support the climbing varieties in
much the same way as you would for runner beans. Keep
the soil moist by regular watering and mulching around
the plants, especially at the time of flowering to help
the flowers set seed.
Pick the beans at regular intervals, when they are 4
to 5 inches long, to ensure a young, tasty and prolific
crop. Try growing unusual varieties, as these will not
only give colour to your plate but also plenty of taste
to your palate.
Simply top and tail the French Beans and cook them is
slightly salted boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. They
should still have a slight crunch to them. Serve the
beans with black pepper and plenty of butter melted
Varieties to try
'Purple Teepee' - a quick maturing bush plant with masses
of dark purple pods.
'Rocuqencourt' - yellow, padded bush plant. Ideal for
'Rob Splash' - cream background to pod with purple flash.
'Golden Gold' - soft golden, yellow pod.
W. Robinson & Sons
Lancs PR3 0BN
Tel: 01524 791210 for a catalogue
with premission from Greenfingers.com