Friday, 19 August 2011

Runner Bean, Pole Bean or Climbing French Bean?

Great news: the runner beans have started cropping. We've had them at the table for four days in a row now -  without any grumbles.  It's only one out of five wigwams producing at the moment: Painted Lady (more of which below). Of the other four two are Barlotti Beans for drying and the other two are my "Malagrowther" beans: climbers that appeared in the middle of my dwarf French beans Canadian Wonder. I guess they are a cross or a reversion and my research suggests the closest match is "Windsor". These climb, have purple pods and mottled creamy coloured seeds. They also have lovely flowers: 


An old favourite with beautiful red flowers is Scarlet Emporer. 

Scarlet Emporer


  But first to crop is the two tone Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Someone (Hi Tany) asked if these were a novelty. In fact they are reckoned to be amongst the first batch of runner beans imported from Central America in or around 1633.  In England they acquired an alternative name "York and Lancaster"  representing colours of the two sides of the War of the Roses.

Flowers and Pods
 There is the perennial confusion in my mind as to the distinction between runner beans and pole beans and climbing French beans. I take the last two terms to be interchangeable.  I read that runners, unlike other climbers,  always wind themselves clockwise around a pole so I'm off to check if this is true of all the varieties I'm growing.
Another curiosity - can anyone confirm that runner beans are not popular in the US? That would be a shame if it were true!


  1. I think pole bean just refers to either runner or French beans that climb up 'poles'.

    Runner beans are also called string beans as the edges of the beans are stringy and need to be trimmed off whereas French beans (whether climbing or not) are a smoother texture and don't have stringy edges.

  2. I have no ideas about the runners....thanks for telling me about the painted lady....I always grow the scarlet emperor but may give the others a try.

    I don't know about the US but I do know that runner beans aren't very common in Europe...neither my Swedish, polish or Portuguese friends had them before coming to England!!

  3. My plants are just starting to produce tiny runner beans, they're nowhere near big enough to eat yet, but it won't be long. My dwarf French beans have been the first to produce this year.

  4. Nice looking flowers on the beans Mal. I get confused myself by the terminology so can't help you there!

  5. I would grow runner beans for the flowers - I love how the beas love them - but not for the beans, which we're not keen on in my family. I never manage to pick them when they're young enough, and it's all too easy to end up with things the size of cricket bats.

  6. Nice bean flowers! Mine have only just started flowering, they got held back by the cold spring. But my French beans have set, which is good.