Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are edible legumes known for their bright red flowers and long, thin pods. They have been a popular European vegetable since the 16th century and are now grown worldwide. Runner beans are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them a healthy addition to your diet. This article will explore the history of runner beans, their nutrition profile, how to grow them, and some delicious recipes.
What are Runner Beans?
Runner beans are edible legumes belonging to the species Phaseolus coccineus. They’re native to Central and South America, but they’ve been cultivated in Europe since the 16th century and are now grown on every continent except Antarctica. Runner beans have bright red flowers and long, thin pods that can grow up to 30 cm long. The pods are picked when young for eating as green beans or left until mature so that their seeds can be used for drying and storing.
History and Origin of Runner Beans:
Runner beans were likely cultivated in Central and South America for thousands of years. The plant was first brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, where it quickly became popular in English gardens. It then spread to many other countries worldwide, including Australia and India. Today, runner beans are grown extensively as a vegetable crop throughout Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Growing Conditions of Runner Beans:
Runner beans require a sunny spot in the garden with fertile, well-draining soil. The plants can be grown directly from seed or transplants. It is best to sow seeds directly into the ground when the danger of frost has passed, and this will need to be done in succession throughout the season for continuous production. Plant the seeds 1 inch deep in the garden, spacing them 12-18 inches apart.
Planting beans in a row will make harvesting easier. Water regularly and fertilize every few weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer to ensure healthy growth throughout the season. Runner beans are also heavy feeders, meaning they require more frequent fertilizing than other plants to maintain abundant production of pods.
Health Benefits of Runner Beans:
Runner beans are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They contain high levels of folic acid, fibre, potassium, calcium and iron, and other important vitamins and minerals that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Runner beans also have a good amount of protein, making them a great addition to vegetarian or vegan diets.
Where are Runner Beans Grown and Harvested?
Runner beans are primarily grown in tropical and subtropical climates, such as Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia. They can also be grown in cooler regions with a long growing season. Runner beans are harvested when they reach maturity; on average, this takes between 70 and 100 days from sowing. The pods should be picked when they reach the desired size and before the seeds inside become too large.
The older pods will become tough, woody, and inedible. If there is a risk of frost, then runner beans can be harvested slightly earlier to ensure their quality. It is best to harvest them regularly – pick them every few days or so – to ensure a continual harvest.
Cooking Runner Beans:
Runner beans are a great way to add some extra nutrition and flavor to your favorite dishes. They can be cooked with other vegetables and fruits for a delicious, nutritious meal.
For starters, you can always cook runner beans with potatoes or carrots. This classic combination will provide plenty of flavor and make for a filling dish. You could also try adding some diced apples or pears to the mix for a little sweetness and texture.
Another way to enjoy runner beans is with bell peppers, onions, and garlic. This trio of flavors creates an amazing dish that’s bursting with flavor. You could also add in some diced tomatoes for extra acidity and color.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding runner beans to a stir-fry. The beans can be cooked with vegetables and your favorite protein for a delicious meal. You could also try adding runner beans to soups or stews for a flavorful twist on these classic dishes.
Storing Runner Beans:
Runner beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Alternatively, they can be blanched and frozen for several months. Ensure to cook them before eating after frozen, as freezing may reduce their texture and flavor. If you have too many runner beans, consider preserving them by pickling or making chutney. This is a great way to enjoy your runner beans all year round.
Runner beans are an incredibly versatile and delicious vegetable with a unique earthy and nutty flavor. They can be used in many hot and cold dishes, making them an ideal ingredient for any occasion! From a simple side dish to an elaborate main course, runner beans will surely add great flavor. With proper storage, you can enjoy them even longer. So go ahead and enjoy these tasty legumes – your taste buds will thank you!