One of the most irritating things about runner beans is when they flower – and then the flowers just drop off without the beans actually setting. It happens in dry weather, and it happens when there are no bees around to pollinate. And with our increasingly unpredictable weather, and with fewer bees, it seems to happen more and more often.
A Surrey-based vegetable specialist has been working on solving this problem by crossing runner beans with climbing French beans. Climbing French beans are self fertile, they don’t need bees, and also happily set pods in a wide range of growing conditions. But runner beans have the flavour. Bring the two together and you have tasty stringless beans that reliably produce pods.
White-flowered ‘Moonlight’ was the first. Then last year came red-flowered ‘Firestorm’
. Now this year we have we have two more white-flowered varieties, ‘Snowstorm’ and ‘Stardust’. Both are improvements on ‘Moonlight’, both have an even greater ability to set pods in difficult conditions.
‘Snowstorm’ has better flavour than ‘Moonlight’, better texture, smoother skin and longer pods – and of course it’s stringless. ‘Stardust’ is similar to ‘Moonlight’ but has pods that are longer and although it’s a little later to start cropping once it gets going it’s much more prolific.
Grow these new runner beans in just the same way as traditional runner beans, but you’ll probably need even fewer plants as there’s far less chance of flowers dropping off without producing any beans. And of course that long succession of white flowers brings a fresh and colourful look to the veg garden.
You can order seed of runner bean ‘Snowstorm’ from Thompson & Morgan
You can order seed of runner bean ‘Stardust’ from Marshalls