Introduction and description
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Phaseolus coccineus, known as runner bean, scarlet runner bean, or multiflora bean, is a plant in the legume or Fabaceae family.
The plant becomes a vine, and in the right conditions can grow to 3 m (9 ft) or more in height.
The traditional way to grow them on the allotments of the UK, is to create a wigwam of poles and sticks, that the bean can climb up. This has the advantage that any roaming bee will bump into the plant even if it is on its way home and thus pollination is more likely. It also helps the plant avoid fungal diseases, as the wind whipping through the plant keeps it free of any mildew or rot.
Most varieties have red flowers and multicoloured seeds, some have white flowers and white seeds. According to Wikipedia “they are often grown as ornamental plants”. They may be in the USA, but they certainly aren’t in the UK or the rest of Europe, they are looked on as food and pretty precious food too, because this is one bean where the supermarkets have great difficulty keeping them fresh long enough to sell. A runner bean is really only at its best when freshly picked, straight from the garden.
Furthermore, once the seeds or beans inside have got too big, and ready to be shed by the plant, the long pod is too tough to be eaten, so like many vegetables you have to catch the pods young.
There are stringless varieties and the old fashioned string variety. What this means is that on each side of the pod a sort of zipper like string may be present [or not] holding the two sides of the bean together. There are very natty little culinary tools one can use that will both string a bean and cut them into long shreds, making them easier to steam.
It is thus a treat, a culinary delicacy that few really ever get to enjoy, and can be used in salads, as a vegetable with roast meat, and as a last minute addition to stews [when it is sliced sideways as opposed to lengthways].