There is a story that’s been growing in raised bed four. It contains all the good elements of storytelling; a dynamic and beautiful main character that has the ability to heal and provide nourishment for the hungry, while remaining trapped in a 4×6 fenced space in the middle of a beautiful garden setting with the unfortunate problem of being mostly forgotten. In her desperate need to be noticed, she creates beautiful, brilliantly colored flowers, grabbing the attention of all who enter the garden, but as these flowers fade, so does the attention she receives. Alone again, she produces long, green pods which over time begin to fade to brown and crackle in the wind, as she herself comes to the end of her season. Yet, she leaves one last gift—jewels! These purple-speckled jewels are edible and contain a nutrient packed inside.
Who is this heroine that gave so much, in return for so little? Her name is Scarlet Runner Bean, and she became part of the Teaching Garden story in late May when we still had an empty raised bed in need of planting. In 2016 this bed grew tomatoes and okra, something we did not want to repeat in the same area. After spending all spring prepping and planting the bio beds and other raised beds, we were mostly looking for a plant that would keep the soil covered during the summer months and not be something we would have to fuss over. Thomas had Scarlet Runner Bean seeds available, and it was quickly decided we would grow these beans for its legume nitrogen fixing soil benefits, and not necessarily for the harvest of beans.
As the above story goes, we truly did plant and forget…okay, we did water, but that has been the extent of our efforts. This plant has thrived, filled, and spilled over its caged area. There have been many happy pollinators zipping in for visits, but no bad bugs to be found threatening its welfare. By mid-summer it burst into flames of brilliant, crimson colored flowers, which I imagine would look beautiful in a vase arrangement. Green pods followed, but most of us were not fans of eating them raw. So we left the plant alone again, only to come back and find gorgeously colored dried beans inside the now brown pods. This story will end after we have harvested enough of the dried beans to use in a recipe. Fortunately, there are a couple of Master Gardeners with some amazing cooking talents who might be willing to help write the last delicious chapter.
If you would like to recreate this story in your own garden, here is a link to a good read with more detailed information.