It's you and the beanstalk

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Wide variety: Known appropriately as snap beans, they grow all the year round in Bangalore. — File Photo
Wide variety: Known appropriately as snap beans, they grow all the year round in Bangalore. — File Photo

French beans, the commonest bean in the market, grows all the year round in Bangalore. Earlier called ‘string beans' because of the fibre that runs along the seams of the pod, this legume is far less fibrous now thanks to selective breeding, and it has an appropriate new name: ‘snap beans'.

There is a great variety of beans — runner, Lima, soya, winged and so on. Some are eaten fresh and others left to mature and harvested as dry beans. The basic steps to raise them are the same for all beans.

The beans plant can be a bush type or a climber. The bush beans mature early and grow up to 60 cm in height with a shorter productivity period. The climbing variety, also called pole beans — (remember Jack and the Beanstalk ?) — needs support. Keep this in mind when you plant the beans: a fence, a net strung between two poles or three bamboo poles tied together on top will do. The climbers generally produce pods for a longer period.

Beans are not choosy about the soil, but it is best to loosen the earth to a depth of about 10 cm and mix a layer of compost or manure. Always sow beans directly into the soil as the seeds are reasonably large and easy to handle. Planting is just a matter of pushing the seed into the damp soil to about 2-cm depth. Seeds must be placed at 15-cm intervals with a 50-cm gap between rows. Be gentle while watering the seeds, using a watering can to keep the ground moist. Remember that over watering may cause the seeds to rot. Beans have a shallow root system and frequent weeding is necessary.

Water the plant generously once the flowers appear. Beans are particularly sensitive to moisture-stress during flowering and pod-setting stages. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilizers as this promotes leaf growth at the expense of flower and pod growth. Pods will be ready for harvest, two to three weeks after flowering. Pick the beans regularly when they are tender; this helps the formation of more flowers and pods. Remove the pods carefully, by snapping them off the plants, without injuring the plant or pods.

Pest control

The growing shoots do attract aphids. Control them early through soap spray. Crop rotation and keeping the soil around the plants free of weeds can control pests.

With plenty of tender beans available from the six plants I have in my garden, I have been experimenting with new recipes. Here is one that I picked up from the Internet; I have given it an Indian twist.

Bean pods will be ready for harvest two to three weeks after flowering, writes Thilaka Baskaran