Saturday, 28 August 2010

Make time for the Runner Bean

Ah be warned - the next few days will feature recipes that include runner beans.
One of my fellow bloggers commented a little while ago and mentioned that he was not familiar with runner beans. So for those of you may be unfamiliar with it, may I give a very brief introduction.

Runner beans originate from South America, so its quite surprising to note that they are one of the most common garden vegetables in the UK. In fact they have been described as a quintessentially British vegetable. I have found runner beans extremely easy to grow. Before you know it, you'll have long, green runner beans varying from 3 inches to 8 inches to harvest. I don't think runner beans taste of very much, but I still like to grow them, especially for its red-orange flowers that the bees seem to love too. To prepare runner beans, you must top and tail them. I don't tend to remove the stringy bits running up the sides, but some people do using a small knife or vegetable peeler before cooking.

Runner beans can be boiled, roasted, steamed, stewed or stir-fried. They are best cooked until al dente. Over the next few days, I will be experimenting with them.
So this is my first dish. Its an recipe inspired by Denis Cotters Chickpeas with chillies and Nigella Lawson's chickpea with chilli and garlic. Oh I also used the the bolted Rainbow Swiss chard I picked earlier.
Here it is transformed, sauteed in olive oil with some garlic.
Spiced Runner bean and chickpea salad
Serves 4
200g - 250g runner bean, topped and tailed, sliced diagonally
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
Steam the runner beans, until tender, then set aside
Mix together the garlic, chilli, olive oil, lemon juice and salt to taste. Add in the runner beans and the chickpeas. Stir well to combine. Leave aside for an hour or so for the flavours to infuse. Serve at room temperature.

For those of you with beady eyes, I did add some roasted cubed potatoes to the salad to make more of a meal of it.


  1. my runner beans have only just perked up- they were suffering terribley with some sort of infestation of bugs, but the ladybirds seem to have finally faught back! I have masses of rainbow chard now- can you give me some more ideas about what to do with it- I only really grew it because I think it's pretty! xx

  2. Hi Mother of Purl,
    Glad to read your runner beans have perked up, I'm actually rather surprised as I've often foudn them relatively fuss free. Thank goodness for the ladybirds.

    I originally grew rainbow chard for the colour too, then realised I had to eat them. Here are some recipe, many from last year. Hope you find one you like. Recipes include
    My favourite Rainbow chard tart
    and Swiss chard bundles
    and many others
    Spiced chard
    Chard and potato terrine
    Chard Tart
    Charld and olive quiche
    Chard bean soup
    Chard frittata
    See this link

  3. Runner beans seem to be very popular in NZ too, but only among the oldest generations (the ones with the 'quintessentially British' heritage perhaps). Modern gardeners often go for all the new variety that you can buy these days, which probably taste better, even if they don't give a huge crop like the runner beans. Runner beans are going out of fashion, but I think this is because the quintessentially British bean (I love this term, quintessentially!) was quintessentially boiled to death and served with a bit of butter. And that was it!. Poor runner bean!

    Glad to see your recipe, it makes runner beans look trendy again!

  4. Hi Alessandra.
    What a huge compliment, I hope I live up to your expectations and share some new ways of eating runner beans.

    Made me giggle the number of times you wrote 'quintessentially'. Your right, previously runner beans like cabbages were boiled to death and coated with butter, hopefully home cooks find other ways to enjoy them.

  5. I really need to try runner beans! I've only ever heard of them on your blog, but they're intriguing to me!

    The dish looks lovely. :)

  6. Mo,
    Runner beans are a marvellous bean to grow. They don't taste of much, but are so worth it as you'll be surprised at the length they grow.

    This Indian recipe from Madhur Jaffrey is my preferred way to eat runner beans. My husband grows them because they look pretty but I really don't like them. There are a lot to go so hopefully you will encourage me to eat more. No pressure!

  8. Hi Marie,
    Welcome and Thank you for your comment and suggested recipe. I'll follow the link and who knows, I may just make it. I do like my spices.

    Mother of Purl.
    Your so welcome.

  9. I'd never heard of runner beans, but in your photo they look like what we call Italian green beans. From a quick web search, they seem to be the same thing even though they're not from Italy, as you mentioned. So funny how we have different terms for some things. I also just learned that rocket is another word for arugula. That spiced salad sounds tasty.

  10. Thanks Jessica,
    I too did a little more background research and noted they may also go under a variety of lima bean.

    Yes, its interesting how different countries use different names to describe veg. Soemthing I learned pretty early on: zucchinni aka courgettesw, eggplant aka aubergine.

  11. Thanks for the info on runner beans. Though I have seen them on numerous UK programmes they are not common here in Canada at all. You would never see them in a grocery store and I haven't seen them in a garden.

    Jessica - I grew 'italian' beans this year and they were pole beans, which get as long as runner beans, but are still a variety of green beans. The varietal I grew this year were purple but they turn green when cooked.

  12. Thanks Christine.
    Funny how some veg are popular in some countries and others not. Other than U.K grown runner beans, we usually see them being imported from countries like Kenya. So I am surprised that the imported variety are not in the grocery stores in Canada, but I guess that can be a good thing too, as we encourage local, don't we?!


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