Climbing beans are the immature 10 to 15 cm long seed pods of the common bean. They are part of the legume family.
There is a wide range of cultivars of climbing beans with pods coloured green, yellow (wax beans), purple, red or streaked. There are thin beans (harricots) and those with more wider pods (romano). If beans are grown to a mature state, their pods get tough and the four to six seeds inside grow to become what we know as kidney beans, cannelini beans and borlotti beans.
Most of the modern varieties of bean pods don’t show ‘strings’ anymore. Older varieties still show this hard strand running along the length of the pod.
Climbing beans grow as a twisting vine that is 2 to 3 meters long. They need a supporting structure to grow on. The green or purple leaves are oval or heart shaped and 5 to 15 cm long and wide. They usually come in groups of three leaflets. The flowers are white, yellow, pink or purple.
Climbing beans contain lectins which are toxic to humans when eaten raw and in bigger quantities. Cooking or fermenting destroys these lectins.
Beans fix nitrogen, so they don’t need much fertiliser. The roots show plenty of nodules where the plant hosts the nitrogen fixing bacteria it lives with in symbiosis.
How to grow:
Climbing beans love a rich, well drained soil with plenty of compost dug in to retain moisture. They grow in a sunny spot but also in partial shade. Climbing beans need a trellis to climb that is about 2 m high.
Sow directly where they are supposed to grow, 20 cm apart with rows 40 cm apart. Keep moist from germinating to harvest.
Doesn’t need much fertilising.
9 to 11 weeks to harvest.
Growing in the neighbourhood:
Companions are lettuce, carrots, brassicas, beetroots, radish, silverbeet and cucurbits. Doesn’t like to live with onion and fennel in the same bed.
Pests and other problems and how we deal with them:
Snails eat through the stems near ground level and love newly sprouted beans. Coffee grounds deter snails.
Climbing beans are a Spring, Summer and Autumn crop. They don’t set many pods in very hot conditions.
If kept distant from other beans, seed saving is possible.
How to harvest and use:
Green beans need to be picked regularly to encourage new flowers!
Beans freeze well after blanching.
Beans are great cold (after blanching) in salads. They make a terrific side dish. They pair well with bacon, thyme, black pepper, pesto, lemon juice, tomatoes, butter, Parmesan and pine nuts.