After waiting what seemed forever (I lie: these things were harvest-able earlier in the season as I plant these suckers first thing in the spring, I've just finally got around to really harvesting them), I am going to be in Scarlet Runner Bean heaven!
Scarlet Runners need a long warm season to develop their ginormous pods and seeds and as I want to make room for other things, I felt it was time to start harvesting/ cut some down.
I plant these for quick fence cover/their great hummingbird attractors/nitrogen fixer/food purposes.
The beans themselves can be cooked and eaten fresh (meaning, cooked right after picking) or dried, and their pods are quite palatable too I find, though can get stringy and the outside rough if left too long on the vine.
I love how colorful the beans and pods are! Bright beautiful green and shocking pink and purple inside! If that's not healthy for you, I don't know what is, it's like eating the 80s! (wait, *shiver* there)
Last year I unfortunately allowed the beans to get too long and stringy and eating the pods was not so pleasant of an experience, so as I gave the beans a few quick shellings, I noticed how thick and succulent the pods were (probably from the recent monsoon-like rain we've all recently) and the thick walls had swollen up so much they actually were squishing the beans themselves into a bit of a square-like shape!
So, in the name of tasty and testing for quality control, I frenched (sounds funny) a few, tossed them in with butter and cooked them for a while until they seemed done, but tender-crisp enough to retain it's nutritional value (other than lectin ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lectin) and sprinkled just a little sea salt.
Runner bean are annual, or so I thought here in zone 7b, but in warmer climates they are perennial and form tubers that are edible as well. I thought I noticed some runner bean shoots earlier in the year before I had planted my seeds, so perhaps with good composting/mulching, you can perennialize them in your garden. I have yet to eat any of the tubers that may have developed in my garden bed by the wall... they're planted with cannas and I am afraid they're all a bit crowded in together to figure out which tuber is which!
As mentioned via link above, lectin is dangerous and many are unaware of the dangers of undercooked beans (thanks processed/canned foods) it's very important to remember to cook all beans thoroughly to avoid these nasty complications.
It only takes 5 raw kidney beans for example to cause potential symptoms of lectin poisoning!
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