My Dad (95) has always grown Runner Beans, so I have them in my blood. Moving to Norway, I was surprised to find that they were mostly grown as ornamental plants. Indeed, they are called Blomsterbønner (flowering beans) here. Similarly, broad (fava) beans were also rarely grown as a vegetable although both are being more commonly found in veggie gardens today. However, my cool windy shady hillside garden isn’t ideal for growing runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus), really needing a warm south facing spot for reliable yields. However, being in my blood I have to grow them every year, but some years I wonder why I bother, but still hoping for that bumper yield that we had once many years ago. There were so many that we salted many for winter use. Well, it looks like this year may finally be that year that my runner beans do crop well and there are already many young beans, perhaps a month earlier than normal, mainly due to the record warm June here when they grew almost as quickly as in Dad’s garden (we compare notes by phone every week!). However, a very cold July turned things around until things started moving again in August. This year I’m growing four different varieties with different flower colour (we can at least enjoy the flowers!) 1. Celebration 2. Heirloom Painted Lady 3. Czar 4. Plain old red Firestorm
This summer we’ve experienced a big swing in temperatures from one month to the next…from a record cold May to a record warm June followed by most of July being also record cold. The warmth in June straight after planting my runner beans on 11th (later than normal) resulted in quick growth and by the end of July the earliest variety, two-toned Painted Lady was already in flower, a month earlier than a normal year (if there is such a thing as normal anymore)….so maybe we are heading for a record crop, where runner beans are marginal and almost never give a good sized crop:
My courgettes (zucchini), planted out on 14th June on my shady composting area (no more than 2 hours of direct sunshine) also started cropping very early at the end of August:
Finally, I was surprised when folk told me last year that their Worcesterberries (a selection of Ribes divaricatum) ripened in July. I’m usually eating mine from the middle of September to the first frosts late in October, but they are also turning colour already:
Broad beans (favas / bondebønner) will easily cross with other varieties that are growing nearby. In order to keep a variety pure, you need to isolate them physically. I like to have different varieties with different coloured flowers and bean colour in additon to maintaining early yielding varieties such as Express. I’ve found that I can plant different forms close together and if I save separately beans with different colour and bean size and mark for saving plants with particularly nice flower colours, then I can maintain a good mix in the same place. The flower forms below are all growing within a few metres in the Væres Venner community garden. They were grown from the mix of beans saved at the same place in 2018 (first picture). I don’t offer the different forms as named varieties, but as a mix or composite “Væres Venner Mix” so that others can also select for separate forms! Bumble bees were all over the flowers when I was there!
Before I go any further, I should say that 2/3 of my cultivated area is almost 100% no dig (perennials is the ultimate no dig) as I grow perennial vegetables, fruit, berries and nuts. I rarely dig in these areas at all as I only plant once and don’t disturb the plants for years. I do still grow annuals on my raised beds…beds which are about 1.2m wide and are never walked on. I add compost on most of the beds each spring and lightly dig over to incorporate the compost and, surprising to most folks, to encourage the weeds to germinate. There’s one weed in particular that I’m encouraging, Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle / haredylle). As I’ve written before (also in the 12 page essay in my book on the sow thistles), this is my favourite summer leafy green vegetable which I eat most days from July to September. It grows quickly and is actually more nutritious than standard greens. It’s also rich in antioxidants and I love it’s slightly bitter taste which goes well with pretty well any dish I might prepare, always mixed with other “vegetables of the day”. We ate it tonight in a pea soup and, yesterday, in a green pasta sauce and the day before that in pizza… Yesterday, I weeded my second crop broad beans which were growing in a sea of “weeds” and as I weed I selectively allow the sow thistle to grow on between the beans and on the edge of the bed (you can think of this as “WEEDING YOUR WEEDS”). The video and pictures show the broad beans with the young self-seeded sow thistle plants in between. These will grow up quickly in the next 2-3 weeks and I harvest just before they start flowering. This doesn’t interfere with the growth of the broad beans which take much longer to mature to harvest. Later on, the next wave of sow thistle will be allowed to grow on the edges of all the beds where it doesn’t interfere with the main crops, a method used by the Maori of New Zealand which inspired me to introduce Sonchus oleraceus to my garden. Eating your weeds can significantly increase your yield. I must admit that I love weeding, a quiet time in the garden observing wildlife around me…….similarly, I love washing up, both quiet times contemplating. There’s even a name for weeds that are cropped…it’s a cryptocrop. Cryptocropping has been practised by many other peoples around the world. Any nutrients or soil which might be washed out from my annual beds during periods with naked soil ultimately end up in my forest garden and perennial plantings below, so are not lost! However, there isn’t much loss as my soil is high in humus after over 35 years adding compost! I’ve tried no dig in the past, but I would need a much bigger area to produce sufficient material for mulching and I also found that in my shady cool garden the soil heated up much too slowly and slugs were also a bigger problem. In the video, I zoom into the low growing young sow thistle plants between the taller broad bean plants:
Runner beans (blomsterbønner) are always ripening at the end of september to early october here before the frost stops them. They made a delicious whole grain rye/barley/oat sourdough pizza (bread dough).
Today I harvested the year’s first broad beans at the Væres Venner Community Garden where KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) are developing a garden:
I also harvested the first potatoes at home…and the year’s first falafels resulted with new potatoes for dinner. The falafels were flavoured with salt, pepper, shallots, chili and golpar (ground seed of any species of Heracleum or hogweed) which gives a delicious exotic flavour!
Heracleum sibiricum gives the local variant of golpar here…most people have a local variety of hogweed to harvest, even Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) or Tromso palm (H. persicum), the latter giving the most authentic Iranian golpar spice.
Onion bhajis are a popular and delicious starter in Indian restaurants and common veggie fast food in supermarkets in the UK. They are basically onions in a gram flour batter which are deep fried in oil. Gram flour is made from chick peas. If I could get it, I would prefer to use broad (fava) bean flour which could be grown here in Norway. I have a lot of (bulb) onions left in the cellar, so decided to make some bhajis…..and with my cellar full of sprouting dandelions I decided to mix some dandelions into the batter for a slightly more healthy meal :)
Broad (fava) bean diversity 2018! This was the first harvest at Væres Venner community garden in Trondheim! This is the only (and original) bean for making falafel and hummus! We should be growing large areas of this bean here in Norway for food security and climate friendly vegan food. It annoys me how little self-sufficient Norway is in particular in vegetarian food when it doesn’t need to be that way!
The first harvest at the KVANN vegetable sanctuary garden at Væres Venner was broad beans (bondebønner) from a mixed grex and this was turned into delicious falafels that almost melt in the mouth! The year’s first falafels or hummus is a real highlight of my gardening year…and did you know that the original falafels and hummus were made using broad (fava) beans, sadly replaced by inferior (in my opinion) chick peas….and we can experience this dish fresh even in cold areas where other beans won’t grow!
AND the colour is a natural beautiful green inside….they are often made with some leafy green vegetable added to supply the greeness of the “real” falafel!
NB! Falafel doesn’t have to be ball shaped and deep fried…these are pattie shaped and shallow fried..