So what happened to Runner Beans?
I have taken a few trays to farmers market, and they have been received with great relish. The problem for people who don’t grow their own, is that they struggle to find runner beans on supermarket shelves and even greengrocers shelves. Supermarkets will only sell you what they think you should eat and what they can make money from, and in recent years this has changed. A far smaller area of runner beans have been grown in recent times at the behest of supermarkets. Sold lose, customers rummage around for the best beans in the tray, damaging beans and leaving anything that is stringy, therefore creating waste, and waste creates very little profit. The answer to this is pre pack the beans, and you have to pick up a packet, but this all makes the beans more expensive. For the independent greengrocers, the storey is different, many provincial towns used to have their own market gardens in the locality. The growers would sell their beans to the local wholesale market, but many of these have been put out of business by the supermarkets, and greengrocers can only grab what they can and may be not the best quality. For the gardener who try’s and grow their own, the weather is changing, it is getting warmer, and runner beans like a traditional English summer, not too hot and a shower of rain every other day. So the gardeners need to change from red flowered beans to white flowers, they are much more tolerant of heat. Their next problem is slugs, so don’t plant the beans in the garden as a seed, plant them in pots, raised in the greenhouse, or cold frame and plant out when 6” tall, mid May. With the ground, now much warmer and the plants will romp away and leave the slugs and snails standing. That most English vegetable is clearly under pressure, from the modern, unsustainable, world, but of course you can buy a Riverford or Abel and Cole organic veg box and will find you some lovely runner beans from Lyburn farm.