Our summer garden has grown over time, adding raised garden beds each season for several years. We have a very small yard so making room for a large garden has been a challenge. This year we came up with a brilliant idea to expand our growing space. Well, at least we think so.
Our house backs up to a golf course and we happen to be in range of many stray golf balls landing in our yard, so we sometimes call the backyard the “ball” garden. We decided this year to use the space in front of the golf net (that protects our back deck from stray golf balls) to put in another narrow raised bed to grow Scarlet Runner Beans. It was a perfect place for these beans, as this area has good sun exposure and the beans have a built in trellis (the netting) to grow on.
It’s sad that this bean is seasonal and the vines wither and die in fall so the netting looks bare until we replant in late spring. During the summer the hummingbirds visited the vines several times a day to gather nectar and were such a delight to watch.
Scarlet Runner Beans dry on the vine, quite different from other varieties. The bean pods start turning brown and dry up. Once harvested, pull beans out of the pods and continue to dry laid out on a cookie sheet for about a week. Beans should be brightly colored and feel solid. We store our dried beans in glass jars until we are ready to use them.
There are many great recipes for these beans. They are the perfect addition to chili, soups like Pasta Fagioli, and as a side dish. Cooked in wine or beer adds a wonderful flavor. I found this recipe on Epicurious.com and fell in love with it. I’ve altered it slightly. Goes great with ribs, BBQ salmon, steak, chicken or any protein. Also great served over rice.
- • 1 pound Scarlet Runner Beans
- • 4 ounces bacon (I use pepper bacon for added spice)
- • 1/2 large white onion finely diced
- • 3 large garlic cloves smashed
- • 1/2 cup white or red wine
- • 14 oz can chicken or beef broth (I've used homemade broth when I have it on hand)
- • 2 bay leaves
- • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried. HINT: if using fresh you can just put a couple of sprigs into the pot and remove before serving)
- • 2 large pinches of red pepper flakes (I use fresh pepper finely diced when I have it in the garden)
- • Season with black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
- • Large pinch of espresso powder (Optional, but does add a nice flavor)
- Optional: Garnish with basil
- Soak dried beans in a large bowl covered with water and soak at room temperature for 4-6 hours or overnight.
- Chop bacon into small pieces and crisp in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil if you need to coat pan to cook onions. Bacon fat may be enough. When onions turn translucent add garlic and cook until aromatic.
- Pour in wine and bring to a boil.
- Let cool a bit and then add broth, bay leaves, thyme, pepper and beans (drained from soaking). Add fresh water to cover beans by at least an inch, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook about 1 hour stirring a couple of times.
- During cooking, make sure beans are fully submerged in liquid. Add more water if needed.
- Add salt and pepper along with espresso powder and continue to cook 1 to 1 1/2 hours until beans are tender but not mushy. You can also cook these in a crock pot for 6-8 hours.
- Puree some of the beans to thicken the bean broth or add water if you want thin it out.