Curly Cristo

044I am currently trialling climbing French bean ‘Monte Cristo’ for Which? Gardening and have joined their community online forum to discuss any interesting aspects which come to light during the growing phase and subsequent taste trial. Like all French beans, they were easy and quick to germinate pushed into some peat free compost in toilet roll inners, so nothing to report on that score. They romped away when I planted them out in late May and quickly got to the top of their 8′ canes despite some slug and snail damage to the lower leaves. The foliage and flowers quickly followed and by mid-July the beans started to form. That’s when I noticed something odd. A lot of the beans were curly!039

Not all of them of course, most of them were just fine but I thought I had better report the curliness as it was a trial and all comments are appreciated, no matter how daft. Suddenly the forum was full of ‘mine too’ comments so not so daft after all!045

Some knowledgeable friends with allotments suggest the problem is possibly erratic watering, a bit like the problem you get when tomatoes split. It could also be due to the beans touching or leaning on other stems, beans or foliage rather than hanging down which could send growth in the wrong direction. However, they also make the point that virtually all climbing bean varieties produce some curly beans but people are conditioned to expect straight ones because that’s what they buy in the supermarkets which reject the curly ones!040

They all taste wonderful, curly or straight! That lovely squeaky, nutty but strangely sweet taste that is so much nicer than runner beans (in my humble opinion) and the best bit of all is they are totally stringless, even when they are a bit old. A quick top and tail and into a pan of boiling water for a few minutes and Bob’s your uncle, delicious with a knob of butter. All observations, comments and suggestions gratefully received from any visiting readers which I will pass on to Which? for their information.

Lab Labs

The Girls! Whenever I think of Labs I think of our dogs Yana & Yula and, although this post is not about them, I thought you might appreciate a photo anyway. Any excuse to show off our adorable girls!009                                                                                                                    Now back to the other Lab Labs or, more precisely, Dolichos lablab ‘Ruby Moon’ or Lablab purpureus ‘Ruby Moon’ which is another ‘first’ for me this year. Not quite sure which genus and species is correct as both are listed as a synonym of each other. It was offered in the Plant Heritage seed exchange and when I investigated further it was described variously as an attractive ornamental climber and a climbing ‘edible’ bean, both of which turned out to be partly true.002                                                                                                                       It was a cinch to germinate in exactly the same way as climbing French beans, it twines its way rapidly up any support to about 3 metres high. The pods are a deep purple to maroon color on the outside and a bright, vivid green on the inside. They are malleable and lie flatter against the seed, like Sugar Snap peas. Immature beans are edible, though they may not taste as good as most other beans. The pods contain toxic cyanogenic glucosides, antimicrobial agents the plant produces that create a bitter taste in defence against hungry herbivores. Lablab beans have to be very carefully prepared, otherwise they can be poisonous. They are not recommended for consumption. The mature beans must be boiled and drained several times in order to rid the bean of its toxin. Ruby Moon beans will lose their colour when cooked, and turn a more modest green. 004
Native to Africa,  lablab beans are grown in both south-east Asia and eastern Africa as a pulse crop for both animal and human consumption, but if you don’t mind I won’t be trying it myself, or the dogs!