Scarlet-speckled beans gave me a beaming smile for a week

Joseph Bulmer

It’s at this time of year when most of us are in the garden or on the allotment frantically scanning seed packets and panicking about what we have or haven't planted in time for harvest or flowering time.

Regretting all the cricket I’ve prioritised, in my case.

The truth is we've got a good eight to 12 weeks of sunshine left to help grow seeds were planting now so there really is no rush.

I must admit though to being relieved at getting my peas and beans in the ground last week as they always seem to make me feel I'm on track.

Last year, I tried to grow a variety of more diverse beans and pulses if only to realise why no-one else grows them.

Lentils were impossible to harvest as they are so tiny and seem to be one per pod.

As for the chickpeas, I was nurturing and weeding between all summer - they were tiny and in no way replicate the shop bought variety.

Although they were a fresh and green tasting addition to salad, I won t be growing them any time soon.

Not everything in my brave new world last year was a disaster.

I'm great believer in mistakes being learning opportunities. While ordering my seeds online I thought I liked the look of a scarlet-speckled bean I could see being stored in olive oil in some Mediterranean delicatessen.

Having ordered the Borlotti beans, I planted them four inches deep in nutrient-rich soil, making sure they didn’t dry out.

Once above ground, within a fortnight, get them climbing up a support of any kind and away from the piranha-like jaws of slugs and snails.

The time-honoured fashion is using a bamboo teepee and when you’ve constructed something to be proud of, you can feed them once a week with a general feed.

Like sweetcorn, they are wind pollinated so plant them in blocks rather than lines to carry the pollen from one flower to another.

You could spray them with a fine mister to help with this but they seem to manage without that.

What they don’t like is to dry out and keeping them moist will increase the yield of beans come September.

You will absolutely know when they are ripe because the pods turn an unmistakeable scarlet all over with a cream-splattered pattern.

Just seeing these last year gave me a beaming smile for a week.

By mid-September I was rewarded with the heaviest crop of attractive, crimson paint-splattered pods, ready to eat on site as a gardeners perk or take home to anoint with something unpretentious in the way of olive oil.

They were hanging in groups of around ten pods at a time and once I’d spotted one, I could see dozens more all of a sudden.

I seemed to be going to the allotment every week and returning with armfuls of them.

My knowledge of preserving was taxed to the limit and we were eating them well into January this year after drying them in Kilner jars.

The added bonus is that you don’t see them very often in the shops and if you do, they are expensive and not always fresh.

Some of the most memorable meals we had last year involved home grown tomatoes, chillies, garlic and Borlotti beans.

This year’s crop has come from drying a brown envelope full of last years larger beans.

They are so easy to provide a self-sustained addition to your garden and your diet.

They made a thick and rich pea green tasting humous when whizzed to a paste with olive oil and garlic.

I am much safer putting beans into the liquidiser to make humous. I'm still banned from putting any berries in it after turning my daughter's computer blue last summer attempting a smoothie.

I'm sticking to Borlotti beans again this year.