Friday, November 15

Spilling the beans on the French

As it seemed many of you enjoyed my post summarising the performance of our potato varieties, I thought I would a share similar assessments of how our French Beans performed

We grew four varieties of French beans, climbing French bean - Cobra, a purple variety - Royalty, a yellow variety - Sungold and a green variety - Tendergreen. The planting schedule  and harvesting summary was as follows.
To give a fair comparison, as we planted differing numbers of plants, I have averaged out the yields to reflect the yield produced for a single plant. I also have to state here that we didn't pick every single bean produced and probably stopped picking before the plants had exhausted their supply. We stopped when there was enough beans in the freezer and we had other things in more immediate need of harvesting.

So to delve into a bit more detail. The first variety to be planted out was Tendergreen
We tend to hold fire on planting French beans until we are fairly sure they won't be affected by a late frost. Maybe this is a bit late compared to some of you. Some years we will plant a later batch but this year we planted the climbing French bean Cobra instead.



Cobra was sown about week later than Tendergreen with both varieties germinating after a similar length of time - 10 and 11 days respectively.
Being a climbing bean, Cobra plants were given a support made up of bamboo canes. 
Cobra produced the highest yield per plant and took less space than the dwarf French beans so as Mark from Mark's Veg Plot would tell you has a good VSR (Value to Space Rating). Mark's enthusiasm for Cobra was the reason that we decided to try this variety.

Royalty and Sungold were both sown on the same day and gerniated on exactly the same day too. They were a little quicker to germinate - 8 days - which was likely to be a result of the later sowing - about a month later than the other two varieties. Sungold was planted a week later than Royalty but we had our first pick from both varieties on the same day so the delay in planting had little effect.
As a direct comparison each picking of Royalty tended to out produce that of Sungold although we had an extra picking of the yellow variety.
We didn't go as far as counting the beans picked but as a general rule the Sungold beans were smaller than those of Royalty which could affect the weight of the yield. We have noticed in previous years though that the yellow vareties aren't quite as prolific as the other colours
We really grow the different colours to add variety even though the purple beans lose their colour when cooked.
As you will have noticed the dwarf beans were grown through weed control fabric. This didn't adversely affect how they performed - which was a relief. There was no extra slug damage - if anything there was less. It's hard to say whether the weed control had a benefit with relation to plant growth as this year's weather conditions were quite different to last year's, however the beans were certainly cleaner as they didn't sit on the soil. Whether the fabric reduced slug damage, warmed the soil and reduced evaporation so the roots benefited is difficult to determine without growing some beans without the fabric and I'm not going to those lengths - sorry! One thing I can report though is that the French beans were not weeded once after they were planted out.

To summarise the yield Cobra had the highest yield per plant - almost twice the yield of Royalty and Tendergreen that tied in second place. Sungold trailed behind but was worth inclusion for colour variety. Each plant has a different flower colour too - you seem to be able to identify what colour of bean will be produced by looking at the flower.

Our overall harvest amounted to just over 11.5kg and provided us with a sufficient quantity to eat fresh and also supply both ours and my sister's freezer. As for flavour they all were more or less the same.

We still have to consider whether we grow the same varieties next year or try something different do you have a favourite?

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments http://glallotments.blogspot.co.uk/ author S Garrett

21 comments:

  1. A really useful post, thank you Sue. I've grown Cobra in the past and found they did well. Last year I grew Safari, which aren't climbing. There were masses of beans, sorry I can't be more specific than that! And like yours, pretty much all within the space of a month. Next time I think I will try and stagger the sowing to extend the season. At one stage I had a carrier bag full of them. Shortly after, they were finished. I think I might try Cobra again next year.

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    1. We manage to freeze lots of ours CJ so we're not too bothered about them coming at once.
      As you can see we did a little bit of staggering so we had beans from July to September. Trouble is that we can;t plant too early as the beans need good weather.

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  2. We also grew Cobra Sue. It's the first time we've grown French beans and we were very pleased with the yield. We grew Blue Lake too. Unfortunately my pathetically bad labelling meant I didn't know which was which. On balance I'd say those I think were Cobra were longer, uniform green and straight, and Blue Lake were more irregular, and curly. Cobra seem a good bet. Will try Blue Lake again to compare my properly labelled varieties this time!

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    1. We've never grown Blue lake, Jill. Looking up on the internet it seems Blue Lake has white flowers whereas Cobra has white and lilac flowers. Do you remember which beans had which colour flowers?

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  3. You are so well organized Sue! Thank you for this useful information. I will look certainly look for Cobra (it might be difficult to find on this side of the Atlantic as our varieties are quite different from yours). Here it was not as good a year for beans as the last few years. We had a nice summer, I am not quite sure why they did not produce as well. The tomatoes did very well but not the 6 varieties of beans I grew.

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    1. Try The Halifax Seed Company based in Canada. They advertise Cobra Alain.

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  4. Sue, thanks for the link. I'm so glad that Cobra performed well for you too, after I had "bigged it up" so much! I have been growing it for years now, and it always does well.
    Your post demonstrates very well your thorough record-keeping. You put me to shame...

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    1. Not me, Mark. Martyn keeps the records - I just steal them! (Like he sometimes steals my photos ;) )

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  5. Cobra it is for me next year then! I am SO impressed not only with your allotment and your yields but the organisation!!! Wow!xxxx

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    1. You should bear in mind that we do have a large allotment, Snowbird

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  6. Hi Sue,
    I was organised enough to have an "in date seed 2013" list but this didn't always carry over to what was sown.
    The successes were: Cherokee climbers which I thought I'd been fooled into planting too early in late May.Masses of young pods,then left the others to mature and bean up.
    Minidor yellow butterbean .These produced masses of small beans which weighed the plants down on the ground so suffered from slug and excess moisture from the soil.Taste was only so so.
    Amethyst with purple pods was a much larger variety with the plants standing up well.Most of them got mixed in the sweetcorn and squashes and took a bit of finding.A moderate yield but excellent beans.
    Failures were:Anellino do Trento green speckled bean (apparently) which were a complete no show and Stanley a green french bean most of which didn't germinate.
    I'm finding that the taste is best when they are just starting to bean up rather than picking them very young.

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  7. I think I've learnt this year that it's better to sow beans late. I wasted an awful lot of effort getting nothing in the cold spring. Cobra, eventually, did well for me too. I love the look of the purple podded varieties, shame they don't keep their colour when cooked!

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    1. We try really hard to resist the temptation to sow early, Jessica. It is difficult when others are busy sowing seed though isn't it?

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  8. I have cobra too, though I didn't get the growing due to kitchen distractions! I agree about growing the different colours despite the purple ones going green with cooking - I love that the purple podded peas stay purple, we ate lots as mange-tout, they looked amazing in stir fries. Is that your peas growing corralled by diagonal bamboo sticks? Clever idea.

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    1. Well spotted, Janet yes they are peas, The others were grown up the hazel sticks produced after coppicing one of our hazel bushes. The other is due for coppicing this year,

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  9. I tried Cobra for the first time this year too, but after problems with germination at the start of the year, none of my beans did particularly well. I also grew Blue Lake, a variety I regularly grow and can recommend. I've noticed in the past that yellow beans don't seem to perform as well as other colours, though I've found that with yellow courgettes too.

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    1. I've noticed that too, Jo - strange isn't it?

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  10. Impressive harvest, and equally impressive record keeping!
    I don’t grow much vegetables but I do enjoy eating them :-)

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    1. Tall beans would fit in as an ornamental, Helene as many have attractive flowers.

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  11. I grew some purple ones a couple of years ago but was disappointed that they turned green when I cooked them so didn't grow them again. I also tried yellow ones but the family weren't so keen on the colour on the plate so now I just stick to the tender-green ones!!

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    1. I like that the different coloured beans have different coloured flower and that the coloured one are easy to spot when picking

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