By one of those singular chances which set us speculating at times, there has grown up a species of social distinction between the Broad Bean (Faba vulgaris or Vicia Faba) and the Kidney Bean in its two popular forms, the Dwarf French (Phaseolus vulgaris) and the Scarlet Runner (Phaseolus multiflorus). The Broad Bean, so please you, is of the masses, the Kidney Bean of the classes. The first is a plebeian, the second an aristocrat. Refined people profess rather a horror of the Broad Bean, as a vulgar and commonplace vegetable, too gross for a delicate palate.
All this is rather stupid. Of course, it sprang from the scornful line of Wordsworth:-
And clowns eat Beans and bacon till they burst.
Had the poet never written that, the thousands of people who, fondly imagining themselves to be marked by a sturdy independence of character, nevertheless dare not for their lives acknowledge a liking for the Beans and bacon combination beloved of Hodge, would be devouring the tasty dish with a hearty gusto.
The Broad Windsor is the typical Broad Bean. The Longpod is an interloper. Of course, the latter is now quite eclipsing the old form in public favour. The Windsor has two or at most three Beans in a pod, the Longpod has six or eight at least. In all probability the Longpod will continue to grow in popularity at the expense of its rival, but it does not beat it in flavour, if it does in productiveness.
The remarks that have been made in previous papers on soil preparation, manuring, seed, sowing, and insect extermination render it unnecessary to say much about Bean culture. The man who knows how to till his land, manure it, and keep down enemies has learnt how to grow Beans. With a little information about varieties he is quite safe.
When autumn sowing was more practised than it is now the Early Mazagan was a popular Broad Bean, and it may still be used for November sowing. It is very hardy, and the sower often has the satisfaction of surveying a sturdy row of plants 3 or 4 inches high in March.
Beck's Dwarf Green Gem is another old Bean. It is dwarf, bushy, and small podded. Although it does not give the weight of crop yielded by a good Longpod, its compactness of growth and delicacy of flavour render it desirable for a sowing early in the year, say in February, if soil and weather be favourable.
Both Longpods and Windsors might be divided into two sections if necessary - white seeded and green seeded. The first section gives as a rule, the larger pods, the second the better flavour. After growing every variety of any repute that I could get, I have come to the conclusion that there is not a great deal to choose between the selected Longpods of our leading seedsmen. Bunyard's Exhibition, Carters' Leviathan, Suttons' Green Giant, and Veitchs' Exhibition are all excellent, and any one of them may be chosen with confidence. Of what may be termed standard types, the Seville is one of the best.
It is much the same with the Windsors. Selected strains are offered by all of the principal seedsmen. Taylor's and the Harlington may be taken as good types.
I have already, in a table, indicated the depth and distance of sowing, and it is unnecessary to do more than emphasise the fact that shallow and thick sowing are both bad. Three to 4 inches is the right depth to cover, and 6 inches would not be too much in very light soils. As respects distance, we are all of us inclined to be nervous about the quality of our seed when sowing time comes, and tempted to sow thickly in consequence. If the seeds be dropped in 3 inches apart, and every other plant thinned out if all grow, things will work out right.
Fig. 47. A Substitute For Runner Bean Poles.
Dwarf French Beans are a much ill-treated crop. There is often much fuss to get them sown when the end of April comes, but if the crop gets sandwiched in as to season between Peas and Scarlet Runners half of it is never eaten.
In large gardens the principal value of the French Bean lies in its value for pot culture. In my salad days Osborn's Forcing and Fulmer's Forcing, with, in a minor degree, Syon House and Sir Joseph Paxton, were the favourite varieties for this purpose. I am afraid that these old stagers have passed out of favour. To be sure they are grown still, Osborn's particularly, but Ne Plus Ultra and the Sutton Forcing have given them the go-by. Both are very nice pot Beans.
With a few 8, 9, or 10-inch pots, or boxes 4 to 6 inches deep, an early supply of French Beans may be had. If a heated pit is at command, seed may be sown in November, but if the plants have to come along in a vinery or Peach-house started in the new year January is early enough to sow. The seeds may be inserted 3 to 4 inches apart, and the plants supported by twiggy sticks. It is useless to attempt forcing French Beans in a dry, hot place, for they would be ruined by red spider.
Canadian Wonder is not yet surpassed as a general outdoor sort. It has large, pale leafage, and is a coarse grower, but crops heavily, and gives large pods. Negro Longpodded is a black-seeded sort, rather dwarfer than Canadian Woncler, and very good in every way.
The climbing French, a section of which the first representatives were Veitchs' Climbing and Suttons' Tender and True, have acquired some popularity. They do not so quickly cease growth and productiveness as the dwarfs, and are undeniably useful. On the other hand, their flavour is not equal to that of Scarlet Runners, which are in season at the same time. They require sticks.
Fig. 48. Another Support For Runners.
1,1, uprights; 2, 2, struts; 3, 3, strong cord; 4, 4, pegs; 5, 5, strings for the Beans.
The Scarlet Runner is without a doubt the most valuable of all Beans. It is a tender plant, and is therefore not suitable for early sowing, but it can be bad in July, and under good treatment will last and yield until frost kills it in October or November.
Perhaps the earliest pods are got by lifting the old roots in autumn, storing them through the winter like Dahlias, and planting out in late spring. But I have yet to learn the advantages of the plan. If a few pods are wanted early for a special purpose, well and good, but otherwise there is no gain to a private grower in having Scarlet Runners ready before August. Up to that time he has, or should have, abundance of Peas.
It always seems to me that the period at which the Scarlet
Runner proves its value the most is in late August, in September, and in October. In the South and East Peas are difficult to get at that season, whereas with proper treatment Runners will grow, bloom, and pod incessantly.
Except in warm localities or sheltered positions, the end of May is early enough to sow. I like to drop the seeds in 9 inches apart at least, and cover 4 inches deep. It is a very good practice to sow a double row, or rather to sow two rows about 1/2 yard apart, incline the poles for each diagonally so as to cross each other about 1 yard above the ground, and then lash them. Or the plants may be trained on upright poles in a single row, on strings, on fences, on arbours, and in a variety of other ways. If poles are used, they should be inserted directly the Runner shows; moreover, they should be well secured, for an 8-feet row of runners in full growth puts no light strain on its supports when swaying under the influence of a summer gale.
The plan adopted in some districts of keeping Scarlet Runners dwarf by pinching out or chopping off the ends of the shoots has something to recommend it. A hedge 2 or 3 feet through and the same high is produced. Poles are not necessary. It would, however, be futile to contend that crops and individual pods equal to those on unstopped plants are produced.
The Old Scarlet is the cheapest Runner, and will do very well for all ordinary purposes, but if large pods are wanted a selected strain must be grown, such as Suttons' Rest of All, Neal's Ne Plus Ultra, Carters' Jubilee, or Hill's Prize. The White Dutch or Caseknife has a very large, broad pod, but white Runners are not popular.
Butter Beans are esteemed by some, and there are dwarf and tall forms (Mont d'Or). They are usually served whole, not sliced like French and Runners.
Haricots may be left out of account as a garden vegetable.
Fig. 49. Storing Roots Of Runners.
This shows a bundle of Scarlet Runner roots lifted and suspended in a fairly dry, frostproof, but cool place for the winter.