This bean has considerable potential for the market garden.
According to Suzanne Ashworth, author of “Seed to Seed,” Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) has numerous attributes that set it apart:
- it originated in Central America. The dry bean, characterized as mealy, is part of the local cuisine in some places there;
- widely used in England as a snap bean, and green shelly bean;
- in colder climes, the tuberous roots can be dug up, stored in damp sand, and replanted in spring – this way, it will produce much more quickly than those planted by seed;
- fairly easy to shell by hand;
- they attract numerous pollinators.
Saving the seed
Ashworth notes that bean seed is fairly easy to save. Frozen storage is essential, as bean weevils tend to lay their eggs in the pods. The eggs die off after three days at 0°. If they hatch, one could lose all of the seeds. Before freezing, ensure that the beans are entirely dry: take several beans, place on a hard surface. Hit each with a hammer. If they shatter (instead of being squashed), they are ready to freeze. When removing from frozen storage, do not open the airtight container in which they are stored, because they’ll take in too much moisture at once. Wait 12 hours.
These beans were taken in after several days of rain. They were swollen with water. I let them dry inside out of direct sunlight for a week. Most of them seem dry enough to store, but I’ll do the hammer test and sacrifice a few.
I’m looking forward to growing these next year. I’d like to see if I could train them up an elderberry (though I may have to prune them back considerably as the elder give off considerable shade). I could also experiment with the indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa); but this would be a true experiment, as I’ve never intercropped with two legumes.
For a while, I dreamed to developing a cold hardy perennial bean, by crossing P. coccineus with P. polystachios, thicket bean, which is a native perennial. This could still be an opportunity.
Edit: this post was originally titled “Purple Hyacinth Bean” – I continue to get those two names mixed up, though they are completely different genus and species, and the purple hyacinth bean is toxic. My apologies.