Beans of various kinds produce crunchy pods during the summer and seeds for drying in the autumn and eating through the leaner months. I grow climbing varieties up teepees of canes as they take up less space and are easier to harvest. Beans need long root runs so I start them in trays of toilet rolls filled with compost. The young plants are susceptible to cold and need hardening off, then plant the whole thing, cardboard and all when the risk of frost is past in late May/early June.
A really useful variety is Blue Lake that produces masses of green beans in summer then later, white, haricot type dried beans that are excellent in soups and stews. Helda has long, flattened pods that can stay on the plant without going stringy for far longer than other varieties. Purple podded varieties such as Blauhilde are decorative and easier to spot amongst the foliage.
I also grow two different heritage varieties of runner beans, Red Knight with scarlet flowers and Painted Lady which has attractive red and white flowers. I save my own seed and unfortunately, I’ve mixed them up so it will be pot luck as to which is which until the flowers appear.
Borlotti beans such as the Italian “fire tongue” Barlotto Lingua di Fuoco, are also extremely attractive. The beautifully striped red pods produce delicious beans with a close, creamy texture for drying or eating fresh like broad beans, picked while still plump and the beans speckled red and white. For me, fresh borlottis simmered with thyme then dressed with lemon, olive oil, parsley and garlic are one of the highlights of the gardening year.