by David Hirsch
I make sure to plant pole beans every year; I find them such a rewarding crop. Easy to grow, high yielding for the space they take up, and a contributor of nitrogen to the soil. But mostly, I like the way they taste- fresh and beany. When your garden is on the small side, like mine, there’s no reason to fill it up with vegetables that you’re not enthusiastic about. With pole beans, all the action is vertical on the 3 or 4 poles the beans climb up. They look neat and require less bending than bush beans since most of the harvest is further from the ground. My favorites include Romano for its rich, classic bean flavor, and Fortex, with giant but tender, more delicately flavored beans.
This year I neglected to plant runner beans, botanically different, but related to pole beans and similarly grown. Scarlet Runner has vivid red-orange flowers that make gorgeous edible garnishes with a sweet flavor. For best texture, the green beans on runner varieties are even more important to pick before they get too mature than other types. Runner beans are best in cooler climates, or try them in mid to late summer for a fall crop in warmer zones. Since our summer here in the Finger Lakes region of NY has been unusually hot, maybe it’s for the best that I missed seeding them this year.