I do love it when you figure something out all by yourself.
I’ve always been slightly mystified by the instructions for drying shelling beans. You are supposed to dry them on the plant if at all possible: but of course this being Britain that’s a bit of a pipe dream as it always, always rains from August to about, well, June. And the September to October bit is just when your shelling beans – in this case, the sumptuously beautiful borlotti bean ‘Lingua di Fuoco’, or Firetongue – are mature and ready to dry.
So failing unending sunshine – and we really do fail quite well here – you’re supposed to take the entire plant and hang it indoors, upside-down so the beans can carry on drying.
Anyone who has grown climbing beans knows they are monster plants, wound and twisted around their supports in a Gordian knot only the bravest would try to untangle in order to pull up said plant. It stumped me totally.Well: I had a bit of a brainwave this year. It suddenly occurred to me that you didn’t need to take the plants off the supports: keep ’em on. And since at around 8ft high they were never really going to go literally upside down (the highest ceiling in our cottage is only about 7ft – we are not allowed to have tall friends, and bean plants are out of the question) – how about horizontal?
So I hung them off their handily sturdy cane, horizontally from the roof of the greenhouse. Took about five minutes: job done.
Trouble is I now have a further problem: I live in one of the damper corners of the world and it has been extremely damp in the last few weeks. So even the greenhouse hasn’t been the driest of places.
To harvest good quality shelling beans the pod should be crisp brown and rattle when you shake it. Unfortunately a couple of weeks later when I returned to my borlottis, too many of the pods had turned grey and mouldy instead. I wonder if I’d kept a closer eye on them and picked them as they dried whether I could have avoided this.
The beans inside were quite badly affected, too. I got enough unblemished beans which should keep well enough to sow again next year. But it wasn’t quite the generous winter’s supply I’d hoped for.
Ah well: onward and upward. The search is now on for a properly dry place, large enough to take a hefty cane with attached beanstalks plus pods. Any ideas?