The runner beans is native to South America,
where it has been cultivated for more than 2000 years and there is
archaeological evidence of its existence much earlier than that. It is a
popular vegetable to grow. Most home vegetable gardeners have a patch of
runner beans - they are easy to grow and, like al legumes, their roots
contain bacteria that help renew nitrogen supplies in the soil. They
have a more robust flavor and texture than French beans and are distinct
from green beans in several ways. They are generally much larger with
long, flattened pods. Their skin is rough textured, although in young
beans this softens during cooking and they contain purple beans within
the pods, unlike green beans whose beans are mostly white or pale green.
Nevertheless, runner beans belong to the same family as all the green
Buying and Storing : Always buy young
beans as the pods of larger beans are likely to be tough. The pods
should feel firm and fresh. If you can see the outline of the bean
inside the pod it is likely to be fibrous - although you could leave the
beans to dry out and use the dried beans later in the season. Ideally,
the beans inside should be no larger than your small fingernail. Use as
soon as possible after buying as they do not store well.
Preparing : Runner beans need to be
topped and tailed and may also need stringing. Carefully put your knife
through the top of the bean without cutting right through, and then pull
downwards. If a thick thread comes away, the beans need stringing, so do
the same on the other side. The beans can then be sliced either using a
sharp knife or a slicer. Slice through lengthways, not diagonally, so
that you will be able to serve the beans with just a little skin and
lots of succulent flesh.
Cooking : Plunge the beans into
boiling salted water and cook soft.