Satisfying to grow, nourishing and tasty, too!
If Squire Blaska is proud of anything it is his green beans. Uncle Cy was the King of Corn and the Prince of Peas. His godson is the bean whisperer.
The unlettered field hands can hardly keep up with the harvest of Romano pole green beans here at the Blaska Experimental Work Farm and Penal Colony. Planted first batch (Hilda variety from Jung’s) after an overnight soak in inoculant on May 13. Thanks to 92-degree F temperatures and a timely rain they emerged six days later. Planted more at roughly five-day intervals. Threw in some Kentucky Wonder pole beans for variety.
Unlike the stoop labor required of bush beans, pole beans dangle down the wire hoops we constructed. Just walk underneath and pull them! Hoops constructed from 34-inch high hog wire in panels 16 feet long purchased at Farm & Fleet. “Panels,” not rolls because this wire is a stout 5 gauge. (Chicken wire is a flexible 20 gauge.) Provides structure. Drive two metal stakes into the ground, drape wire through stakes, bend and repeat on other side. It’s a two-person job.
We erected two hoops about 16 inches apart from each other and filled the gap with lighter gauge wire we had on hand, giving us (34 + 34 + 16 =) 84 feet in just one row. We plant the beans on the outside and inside on both sides of the hoop. Also draped the hog wire with lighter wire to provide more footholds from the grasping tendrils.
A real space saver
Reoriented the hoops this year north to south so we would have some crop rotation. Green beans pay off better in a cramped city garden than sweet corn. Pole beans even more so. They’ll bear through September.
We planted Jung’s delicious Buttercrunch bibb lettuce under the hoops. In the heat of mid-summer here in southern Wisconsin, the leafy beans provide a shading canopy, preventing the lettuce from bolting.
Fertilized beans just once with a dilute of urine in early June. (Found a seemingly inexhaustible source! “Gee Whiz,” Scientific American reports, an adult could fill three bathtubs a year! Maybe in YOUR bathtub, bub!) NPK is reported at 12-2-4. (This source recommends 1 cup per gallon. We used less but added a dollop of slower-acting fish emulsion, NPK 2-4-0.) Sprinkled the mixture on the ground next to the plants — not on them. An especially stupid field hand burned the Squire’s crop last year using too much of a good thing.
Harvested first pole beans July 20, a good 68 days after planting. The seed packet advertises 60 days, maybe as fingerlings? We take them big — 10 inches long. Might think they would be tough — not so!
Low in calories, zero fat. Loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, vitamins C and B vitamins. Lots of fiber to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Full of iron and calcium, too. (WebMD has the breakdown.)
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Steam (not boil!) for 10 minutes with a strip of bacon. Slather on butter, salt and pepper to taste. Freezer full of them. Eating a plateful now as your irascible host gums up the keyboard. Nothing better except sweet corn on the cob.