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HOW TO CARE FOR
If French Beans have the correct soil conditions and a fair dose of sun they are a relatively easy crop to care for. Watering, feeding and weeding are the main tasks.
Many vegetables are difficult to store over extended periods of time but French Beans freeze better compared to most other vegetables.
The seeds can also be allowed to grow to varying degrees of maturity and then stored dry in airtight containers. Flageolet, haricot, navy beans are names for the mature seeds of French beans. Of course, the seeds can also be used to grow next year's crop.
Climbing French Beans will need support very soon after they are planted or sown. The height of the support should be around 2m / 6ft high. The most common form of support is simply wire netting strung between bamboo canes. Wigwam supports are also common and look very attractive.
Whatever support is used the climbing beans should be tied into the support every 20cm / 8in or so. When the climbing beans reach the top of the support pinch out the growing tip of the plant to stop it growing taller - this will also help the beans to bush out and start producing beans.
French beans need lots of moisture especially when the pods are forming. They are surprising plants though because their roots go down further than you might imagine for such a delicate plant and they form a large fibrous mass which is good at extracting water from the soil. Even so, when the weather becomes dry they need watering.
As far as feeding goes add a handful of fish, blood and bone fertiliser in mid-June. If you want to apply any liquid fertiliser then tomato feed every fortnight is best, this will help the plants to crop well but is not essential.
Dwarf varieties of French Beans are often thought to be self-supporting and to some degree this is correct. However, often the weight of the pods drags the plants to the ground or sideways. We recommend placing twigs around the plants to provide a small degree of support.
Raspberry bush prunings are ideal for this purpose and they last a couple of years. Any twigs though will give the dwarf French Beans just that little bit of extra support they need.
Towards the end of July keep an eye on your French Bean plants to see how the beans are developing. Most people are surprised at how large the crop is so begin harvesting when the bean pods are very young. This will extend the cropping period, encourage new beans to develop, and make use of the beans when they are young and at their most tender.
If you let a few plants produce the beans to maturity (mid-September time) you will be able to eat your own haricot beans which can be kept throughout the winter to consume when few other vegetables are available.
Haricot beans are also known as Navy beans because the US Navy used them for food in the early 1900s. They did this for very good reasons, haricot beans are very cheap but also highly nutritious and contain many trace elements and a good amount of vitamin B1.
Harvest when French Beans are young and tender and use a knife or scissors to separate them from the plant - pulling them off the plant often results in damage. Store in the fridge but eat as soon as possible for the best taste and texture. Harvest frequently to ensure the plants continue to crop and only freeze the young and tender French Beans.
To produce haricot beans don't harvest early, instead let the plant grow until mid-September, at this time the beans will be almost popping out of their pods! Cut the main plant stem and place the entire plant indoors to dry out. Hanging the plants from string works well.
After a few days, when the pods are dried out, shell the haricot beans. Store in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. The beans will keep for 12 months. When cooking them, they will need to be soaked overnight before adding to any recipes.