Tuesday, January 5, 2010

French Beans in a Scarlet Coat

Dwarf Beans with Dill as companion plant
Haricots verts en robe escarlate or in plain english green beans in tomato sauce, just one of the many ways I am cooking with my bumper crop of beans. Beans get called "French" because they didn't make it to the shores of England till the early 16th century but also, the milder climate of southern France was more suited to growing beans to perfection. They were originally cultivated in central and South America with wild varieties still found in Mexico and Guatemala. There is no real secret to growing beans well .Poking a few seeds into some well prepared soil is all that is required. Leave off the watering till after they have germinated.They can be grown in a large pot on a balcony and as long as you pick them regularly there are few pests or problems associated in growing them.
Pole beans or climbing beans are very decorative in the garden particularly if you grow a variety with red or pink flowers and construct a decorative tee pee from bamboo on which to grow them. They also produce a crop for longer than dwarf beans. One of the most popular climbing beans is 'Blue Lake', a North American variety which probably originated with the Indians along the upper Missouri River, and was grown in the South at an early date. "Southern Style" green beans are often cooked with bacon and food blogger George Gaston from Georgia recently gave his take on this with, 'bacon braised green beans' as a side dish for a Thanksgiving dinner.
There are lots of heirloom and heritage varieties available from specialist seed suppliers and one of the popular ones is the 'Lazy Housewife'. This originated in Germany and was introduced into America in around 1810. In Australia the most notable beans are 'Hawksbury Wonder' and 'Windsor Long Pod'. A couple of years ago I grew a variety called 'Sex without Strings' .....perhaps named by some wag with a wicked sense of humor.
I shall leave the final words to Elizabeth David writing in her French Provincial Cooking she says, ' When you get young and tender little French beans, of the variety that only need topping and tailing, they make one of the most beautiful vegetable dishes imaginable, and should always be served as a separate course, when there exquisite flavour can be appreciated'.


  1. French beans are called One-month beans in Bangalore, because they take exactly one month after sowing to fruit. It is a favourite vegetable here. I sprinkle fresh grated coconut and coriander leaves on salted boiled french beans to make a tasty side dish.

  2. Ian, great name for this dish. Old King Louis is running around with his head cut off, cursing those British "red coats" for losing the war in the American Colonies and giving his people a reason & idea to revolt.

    Thanks for the nod to my southern cooking and I wish you could send me a bushel of your 'bumper crop' of pole beans.