Hands up I didn’t think I was going to like this bean. I’m used to French/Pole beans being shaped like a pencil and runner beans to be flat and looking at this it was a French bean pretending to be a runner. Not only that but it is wiggly, which means it does not fit in to my runner bean slicer (a little like this which strings and slices beans in to long thin noodle like shapes). The photo below show why you will never see it on your supermarket shelf, some are straight, some are curved, some have a bigger bottom like a partially inflated ballon, others are flat all the way down, all have a wavy edge around where the seeds will develop. Therefore by the time I got to eat it I was, rather amusingly, in a bit of a grump.
However I have to say that I suspect this is hands down the best French bean I have ever tasted. The 2008 RHS trials describe it as sweet and fresh and I have to agree with them. Therefore I will have to throw out the runner bean slicer, for these at least, and embrace its confused wiggles and curls and love it for its flavour and unusual colour instead.
In the kitchen
The best time to harvest these are when the pod is yellow but still young and has not started to form beans inside. Cook as you would a runner bean, sliced in to chunks no longer than you little finger, smaller if you like and steam or simmer for a few minutes until tender. Try slicing finely in to a risotto or soup towards the end of cooking. They also make a fabulous pickle, chutney or try finely slicing and salting lightly with a little chilli or lemon zest and serve after a couple of hours later as a zesty pickle/chutney with grilled meat or fish.
Yield and plant health
As long as the weather is warm 2-4 plants will provide a meal for two every week (about 700g per plant overall in total) from July but cold weather after planting can seriously knock them back and it may be worth sowing again if you experience this. It isn’t the highest yielding French bean you can grow but worth it for the flavour and I’m not so keen on frozen beans so had to give plenty away. There are very few serious pests and diseases that affect French and runner beans in the UK but Golden Gate holds an RHS award of garden merit at the time of publication which suggests it is one of the best in class.
French beans are not hardy so in the UK they cannot be planted out until the last frosts which is usually around the end of May or early July. They will sulk if planted out too soon and subject to cold and wet weather.
In mid to late May, using root trainers or 3 inch pots, sow two beans per module, 3cm deep. Water, cover and leave to germinate in a warm sunny spot. The beans will start to show themselves after a few days. When all the beans have germinated you can start to harden off by taking outside and putting in a sheltered spot during the day and returning indoors overnight for a week, finally leaving outside for a couple of days until ready to plant out. Repeat every three weeks for dwarf beans to get successional crops. You may only need two sowings for climbing beans.
Beans need to be planted in a sheltered, sunny spot in rich but well drained soil. Adding plenty of rotted manure or compost before planting and mulching after planting will benefit them enormously. Climbing beans will need wigwams, trellis or canes to grow up. Plant 10 cm apart, water well. Continue to water until they are established but then only during dry spells. Once the beans arrive (late June or July) you will need to pick at least every other day to keep them flowering for as long as possible. Beans should be shiny and the beans not showing in the pod for optimum tenderness. Dwarf beans will often give you a second crop later in the season.
French Bean – Golden Teepee (dwarf)
Wisley Magic (runner)
White Lady (runner)