The North-South Beanstalk Divide
Having relatives at opposite ends of the country doesn’t bode well when they are also competitive gardeners.
Our Family’s southern contingent live in Devon where it’s warm, sunny and almost frost-free. The northern cohort are in Cumbria where it’s always wet, cold and frequented by late frosts.
We are happily situated in the Midlands and enjoy a fairly temperate climate.
The issue of competitive gardening first arose when it was time to grow runner beans. May the 12th was the designated date for planting and we Midlanders happily sowed the seed and left the rest to nature.
The southerners paid a visit in August and on seeing slender beans hanging in clusters from our plants, which still had masses of red flowers on too, declared that their bean harvest was over and green beans had been enjoyed since June (not sure I believed them, but all’s true in love and garden-war).
Then in September the northerners visited and were astounded by how many beans we had as theirs hadn’t even started cropping, but a smugness then settled upon them as they pronounced that they will be enjoying beans long after ours had turned ‘stringy’ and tough. (Not sure I believed them either.) Their parting words were: “They’ll all be over in Devon, you know!” – Yes, we know.
Mum, also a Midlander, always used to say that it was a sure sign that Autumn was on its way when beans were part of every meal, so along with the Last Night of the Proms, enormous house-spiders, harvest festivals and misty mornings, a bean-fest is a great way to enjoy the transition from summer sunshine to autumn leaves.
I put this recipe together to encourage vegetable-hating, bacon-loving offspring to enjoy what has to be the best vegetable ever created and its short-lived season makes it that much more celebrated than those available all-the-year round.
Autumn Bean, Bacon and Tomato Festival
A pan-full of prepared runner beans (topped, tailed, stringed and sliced)
4-6 slices of bacon, chopped into pieces the size of a postage stamp*
1 onion, sliced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
A handful or two of cherry tomatoes, red and/or yellow, halved
* For vegetarians, slice and add a courgette or two instead
Pour boiling water over the beans and simmer them for about 20 minutes.
Whilst the beans are cooking, pour a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large frying pan or wok and heat for 30 seconds.
Add the onion and bacon, and cook gently until onion is soft and bacon is starting to crisp.
Next add the garlic, mustard seeds and sesame seeds, if you are using them.
When the beans are cooked, drain off the water and add them to the pan along with the toasted pine nuts.
Shake Soy Sauce over the beans (about 5 shakes should do it) and combine all the ingredients.
Add the tomatoes and stir them in.
Serve into warm bowls.
For a more substantial meal, serve with rice.