Growing Beans in the Garden

It's a bean bonanza! Learn a little about planting, growing, picking and preparing these flavourful pods

Credit: Sharon Hanna

Not just tasty, these beans dazzle on the dinner plate

Add beans to your garden and reap the delicious rewards

Wow, what a year for beans in my house. “Beans again?” has become a regular statement due to this prolonged summer-type weather. Meanwhile, Pocky – our kale-eating dog – enjoys beans in her dinner most nights without complaint.

The purple variety (pictured left) is especially prolific. I tucked a few seeds in sometime in early June, and they had a precarious start; slugs just love our baby bean plants, which narrowly escaped being munched to death.

Growing and Picking Beans

Once they got above the slug line, they grew like crazy. This variety, ‘Trionfo Violetto’ from Saltspring Seeds (bought at Seedy Saturday at VanDusen) has a few green speckles; the bean is a bit flattened and grows up to nine inches long.

Beans are arranged in pairs and seem to reach maturity two at a time. One must remember to keep picking the beans, as picking stimulates production of more flowers and more beans! It’s easy to notice purple beans, too, as opposed to regular green types that often hide behind the leaves.

Trionfo Violetto beans
Purple ‘Trionfo Violetto’ are easily
spotted (Image: Sharon Hanna)

The other bean might be ‘Rattlesnake’, however I can’t be completely sure. The original seed was brought to me by an elderly neighbour who didn’t speak English. She saw me harvesting from my front-yard lasagna garden three or four years ago, and handed me 10 speckled bean seeds, gesturing to indicate that they tasted good and grew very tall.

During a visit to one of my student’s garden, we noted what appeared to be the same bean. Andy, my student, had a Chinese name for the beans, and after harvesting the first lot and eating them as green beans, the rest were allowed to remain on the vine until they turned a pinkish colour.

Presumably Andy’s family uses the actual bean “seeds” either fresh or dried; at this point they reminded me of Borlotti or Romano beans.

Know Your Beans

There is a lot to learn about beans. One thing I picked up this year at my job at the UBC Botanical Garden shop (it`s in one of the books – we have lots of great garden-related books!) is that beans should not be eaten raw, especially by children. The seeds contain a toxin called phasin.

And, in case you were wondering, both the purple and the speckled ones become green when cooked; children particularly love this quality, and may even decide to eat them with a little butter, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkling of minced fresh basil or parsley, both of which are still flourishing in our gardens. Delicious.