Growing and Cooking Beans- Beans are Nutritious and Delicious and Easy to Grow

Beans are a relatively easy vegetable to grow; and a very nutritious one to eat. They are a rich source of dietary protein and fibre, whilst being very low in salt and fat, and they contain no cholesterol.

Beans belong to a group of plants called legumes. Legumes are members of the Fabaceae plant family grown mostly for their fruits which are produced as pods.  Usually the pods are picked before the seeds inside have fully matured. For green beans, the whole pod is picked and consumed. With broad beans the immature seeds are removed from the pods and eaten. Sometimes beans are left to mature and dry in the pods, in which case the hardened bean seed is known as a ‘pulse’. Examples of beans grown as pulses include butter beans (lima beans), kidney beans, and mung beans. However, sometimes broad beans are also grown as pulses, particularly horse beans which is a name given to some varieties with smaller bean seeds. 

For the home vegetable garden, the most widely grown beans are usually common (green) beans, runner beans, and broad beans. The common bean is known by a number of other names including green beans, French beans, haricot beans, flageolet, and string beans.

Common beans are warm season crops. They grow well in temperatures from around 15°C -  59°F through to 29°C – 84.2°F, depending on the cultivar. Broad beans and runner beans, on the other hand, are cooler season crops. They need temperatures in the range of 7°C – 44.6°F to 23°C – 73.4°F to grow. You can sow broad beans from autumn through to the end of winter, or autumn only in very warm places. Runner beans only grow well in cooler regions. Common beans may be sown from spring through to the end of summer, or all year round in the warmest climates.

All legumes make great plants to grow because they improve soil. That is, they have nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their root nodules. These bacteria capture atmospheric nitrogen which the plants use to make proteins. When the plant dies after bearing its fruits, if you leave it in the soil and dig it in, the remaining nitrogen is returned to the soil as the plant material breaks down. It therefore acts as a fertiliser and is why legumes are ideal plants to include in crop rotations.

Winter Beans Recipe
Try this exquisite vegetable side dish as an accompaniment to your favourite meat this winter. Serve with roast potatoes.
100g green beans
100g broccoli 
100g snow peas
1-piece baby fennel
10g butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Wash the vegetables.
Top and tail the beans and snow peas.
Slice the broccoli.
Trim and finely slice the fennel. 
Heat a large saucepan and add butter and oil. Allow to butter to soften and oil to heat up.
Add the fennel and stir for 2 minutes.
Add remaining vegetables and a couple of tablespoons of water and stir occasionally for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with meat and potatoes when tender.