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English Runner Beans
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English Runner beans are long and flat and can grow up to ten inches in length, though will be at their best flavor and texture when picked at six to eight inches. The bean pods are smooth and have a bright green exterior which encases a crisp, slightly juicy interior and petite undeveloped seeds or beans. English Runner beans are typically consumed when they are immature and tender, older beans will become too fibrous for consumption. Many English Runner bean varieties need to be stringed first to remove the long string that runs along the sides of the bean. There are some newer varieties of Runner beans though that have been breed for convenience to be string-less. Runner bean plants are also known for their vibrant scarlet and white blooms which are edible as well and offer a fresh and light bean flavor.
English Runner beans are available in the summer and early fall months.
English Runner beans are botanically known as part of Phaseolus coccineus and are a vining perennial, oftentimes grown though as an annual. Unlike most beans which twine counterclockwise English Runner beans twine clockwise and care should be taken when trellising and assisting the growing plants onto the support poles as to prevent breakage of the vines. The English Runner bean is also unique in that they form their cotyledons in the soil rather than above ground. While not popularly used culinarily in the United States the English Runner bean is recommended in gardening as a plant that is beneficial in attracting pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds. English Runners appear in many seed catalogs in the ornamental vine or flower section as a result of their vibrant blooms which grow on lengthy vines and can serve as a decorative privacy screen or canopy when trellised.
English Runner beans contain vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and manganese.
English Runner beans are most often served cooked unless picked when very young and immature at which point they can be utilized like snap beans. The beans are typically first stringed then cut into short lengths using a knife or bean slicer. The cut beans can be boiled, steamed, baked, sautéed and braised. Chopped beans can be added to quiche, curry, stews, sautés and casseroles. The flowers of the English Runner bean plant can be consumed as well and are popularly used as a garnish or added to salads. Their flavor pairs well with onion, leeks, potatoes, lemon, garlic, peaches, vinegar, butter, mustard, cumin, ginger, curry, nutmeg, tarragon, parmesan cheese, bacon, white fish and lamb. English Runner beans should be stored in the refrigerator and are best if used within two to three days.
English Runner beans are easy to grow and a staple vegetable in British cuisine. In the 1969 Oxford Book of Food Plants the Runner bean is described as, “by far the most popular green bean in Britain”.
The English Runner bean is believed to be native to the high altitude regions of Central America. From there it made its way to Spain then eventually spread throughout Europe. The Runner bean is believed to have first been introduced to England in the seventeenth century by plant collector John Tradescant the younger. The English Runner bean plant was grown for nearly one hundred years in Britain as an ornamental until the pods were rediscovered to be edible by Philip Miller of Physic Garden in Chelsea. True to their name English Runner beans are a climbing plant and should be trellised on a structure that allows them to grow tall. The beans will continue to grow beyond the height of the poles they are trellised on and should be pinched to halt upward growth and encourage flowering and bean production. Additionally, English Runner beans develop deep roots and require adequate soil depth in planter beds and pots to grow. Like many beans English Runner beans are not tolerant of cold and should be planted after the last frost occurs.
Recipes that include English Runner Beans. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Healthy Green Kitchen||Runner Bean Salad with Radicchio, Radish and Red Onion|