French Beans - How to Cook and Grow

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French beans are classy, eaten in three stages of its growing season it offers variety, taste and texture to the kitchen garden. Best known in their youngest form as pencil-like when the actual bean has yet to be formed it grows on to form a larger bean called a flageolet before its final fully grown and dried state known as the haricot bean.

Yellow French Beans

How to Grow

There are a number of varieties and colours to choose from, I always grow a standard green such as ‘chevrier vert’ and a yellow one, usually ‘mont d’or’ though purple and black beans such as ‘nero’ have also proven successful in the past. I do not bother sowing beans before May; they need hardening off in a cold frame until planting out in June when the risk of frost has passed. Do not be tempted by a stretch of warm weather in early May, a sudden frost will wreck all of your hard work. Better to wait and make a succession of sowings until the end of June to provide crops until the beginning of October. Choose a sunny position and try and shelter from the wind, they need protecting from slugs and will require plenty of water during a hot spell. Pick regularly and freeze any leftovers.

How to Cook

This is a vegetable that requires careful cooking. Blanch quickly in lots of rapidly boiling salted water until just cooked, they should retain a crunch. A pinch of bicarbonate of soda will help to preserve its colour but overcooking will not. They are delicious hot with butter and black pepper or cold in a salad with good olive oil.

Content and picture © Miles Collins