Yes, here in the UK, you can grow red kidney beans - the sort that everyone knows from Chilli con carne - and harvest them from your plot. There is no need to buy tins anymore! And they are as easy as growing French Beans.
And I am now going to let you in on the secret that makes this such an easy and rewarding crop to grow…’Kidney’ is the old-fashioned word for French beans! And Canadian Wonder is a wonderful, flavourful, reliable heirloom that will give you a fab crop. The plants grow to about 30-50cm but when very happy they can reach towards 90cm and might need some canes and string to support them. Very happy beans need lots of sunshine, water at their roots and a nice rich soil.
You don’t even need to wait for the end of the season to enjoy. Kidney beans sown in April & May (don’t plant out until the end of May) will start to give you fresh beans from July. Pick them when the pods start to yellow (and your plants will keep cropping), shell them and leave them overnight open at room temperature and the beans will turn from pink to deep ‘kidney bean red’; now cook fresh or pop them in the freezer ready to use (no need to soak).
There is more than chilli for your beans, look forward to making Succotash to go with BBQ food: toss your cooked kidney beans into a sweetcorn and red pepper sauté, seasoned with lime juice and coriander – delicious. Cooking time will vary depending on the age and tenderness of your picked beans – drop them into fast boiling water (no salt) and test after 10 minutes, they might be tender or might need longer (up to another 10 minutes).
If you do want to dry your beans then the pods will need to be left on the plants to dry naturally. These dried beans can then be stored in airtight jars and these will need soaking before cooking.
You can also treat the fabulously speckled Barlotti Beans (climbing or dwarf) in this way. In fact, most french beans can be used as haricot so choose white seeded, black seeded or the darker splotched Tendergreen varieties to add colour to your meals.
Don’t stop with Kidney beans – add the amazing Dalmatian Beans to your plot and plate. These go by many names, Yin Yang, Orca and Calypso but what doesn’t change are the glossy black and white plump beans (beautiful) and their flavour. They make delicious dishes whether eaten as a green or fresh bean or after drying and shelling. Once you see these you will understand why we always make sure we dry some for adding to winter meals. And yes they are as easy as French Beans and being short they are happy in containers.
Pea Beans will give you a copper and cream colour combination on the seeds. Although the name may suggest otherwise, this is not a cross between peas and beans, it is a species in its own right. It is rarely offered for sale, a shame as this is a lovely bean to grow & eat. It has a long history and has been grown in this country since the earliest part of the 17th century. And yes, you have guessed, its as easy to grow as a French Bean!
All these beans are the perfect & easy way to add even more variety to your plot and plate so go on, try some this year. April and May are the perfect time to start them off and you will not have long to wait to enjoy the fruits of your labours… I think I will rewrite that as not long to wait before enjoying your ‘blissful beans of easiness’!