Bill Moore's runner bean arch
AT THIS time of year, when the garden is dull and Christmas provides the only colour, thoughts turn to seed catalogues and the brightness flowers and vegetables will provide next year.
Bill Moore, from Ash Lane, Gunville, reflects on last year’s bright sparks in the vegetable garden — runner beans — and what to do with the summer glut of this delightful vegetable.
"I read with interest your recent article about your runner beans and thought you may be interested in some measure of my success in growing them," says Bill.
"Last year, my wife, Jean, bought me a three-metre runner bean frame for my birthday, which I set on my veg patch at the back of our garden.
"Early planting in April meant some twilight trips down to the frame with old copies of the County Press to ensure none of them got nipped by Jack Frost, but what I had not taken into account was with a three-metre arch you get double the amount of beans."
The result was by late June the crop was so prolific he was giving them away to all the neighbours.
One other thing he found was he had to be careful when picking the beans from inside the frame — sharing the enclosed space with up to 30 bees.
Bill also likes growing cabbage and Brussels sprouts, which are devoured by the cabbage white caterpillars.
He tries to avoid using insecticide on vegetables and sprayed them with soapy water with some success but they still damaged a lot of plants.
This year, Bill picked up a gardening tip the cabbage white butterfly will also lay its eggs on nasturtiums, so he sowed them among the runner beans with some sweet peas to attract the bees, all with great success.
Even though he staggered his planting of beans this year, the later beans caught up with the early ones and by July, he was picking 2lb a day.
He has tried freezing them with mixed success, so he said as a joke to Jean: "I wonder if you can make soup out of them?" to which she replied that she would check on the internet.
"Sure enough I found a recipe. Having bought a soup maker recently, I found it very simple to do — but for those without a soup maker the recipe is:
You need 500 grams (1lb) of beans.
Use a potato peeler to take the stringy edge off older beans.
One large onion is needed and in later brews Bill used spring onion as it gave more flavour.
One tbsp of butter, or oil
One or two potatoes
600ml of vegetable or chicken stock.
Garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
How to do it:
Melt butter or oil in a pan, soften onions in butter or oil in a pan without browning.
Add garlic and raw potatoes in thin slices, add chopped beans and toss in the butter or oil, add stock and bring to boil, simmer until tender then puree and sieve, check the seasoning.
Other runner recipes I have tried include carrot and a bit of parsley.
As with all soups it freezes really well.